Ohio has established 16 Grazing Councils (their term for
"network") in the last two years. More than 12 counties offer a
Grazing Council, with some counties supporting more than one
network. Each network has no more than 20 members to facilitate
sharing. Some of the Councils provide mentoring support to new
members interested in switching to grass-based livestock systems.
A Council recently started in Northeast Ohio, the heart of cash
cropping. Many Councils emphasize youth activities through a 4H
workbook and FFA training and materials. While extension agents
assist farmers in starting and maintaining the Councils, the
agents build farm leadership, not replace it.
Training is integral to the success of grazing. Ten
regional schools were held in 1994, providing farmers and
extension agents a day in the classroom and a day on-farm
learning to design grazing systems and determine their
profitability. Interest in regional schools was facilitated by a
state conference on grazing. These regional schools meant that
Extension agents developed materials such as slide shows,
handouts and newsletters to communicate grazing principles and
implementation. Funding for the regional schools was through
Chapter 3 of USDA's SARE program.
Ohio has also begun to analyze economic data on grazing,
beginning with dairy operations. Profitability over conventional
animal agriculture appears to be linked to farm size. Early
analysis indicates that smaller operations increased profits more
by grazing than did larger operations. Economic data on sheep
and beef operations will be analyzed in the coming year.
NEW YORK REPORT
In 1993, the IRG network, New York State Pasture
Association, had 110 members committed to grazing. Then a three
year project "Graze New York", begun in 1994, started to actively
promote IRG. Funded by NRCS' Grazing Land Conservation
Initiative, this program offered 60 IRG meetings in 1995 drawing
1,888 participants. Graze New York is subsidizing these
participants' membership in the New York State Pasture
Association in an effort to inform and activate these livestock
producers. Graze New York is also developing a newsletter,
edited by Craig Cramer (formerly of The New Farm magazine).
For the past two years, WI has focused on research related
to grazing and streambank erosion control. This research is now
underway and should yield results soon. Developing a solid
constituency for the research amongst county and state agency
staff proved more difficult than expected, given the
unfamiliarity with IRG. Future activities include continued on-
farm education opportunities for policy makers as well as
farmers. The need for this was also apparent as Jerold Berg
participated on the drafting committee for the county animal
waste ordinance to include IRG and manure composting as
alternatives to manure containment facilities.
IRG efforts in WI are closely linked to market development
as well as the Great Lakes Comprehensive Farm Planning Network.
About 10 graziers, of which half are also organic producers, will
be participating in this effort to develop whole farm planning in
It is estimated that 40-50% of beef producers are exploring
IRG, and sheep producers are also receptive. Dairy producers are
the least receptive to IRG, with no more than 1% experimenting
There are 7 Networks in Ontario. In 1994 they offered 150
Pasture Days where farmers could exchange information on-farm.
In 1995 this jumped to more than 200 Pasture Days. The
publication Pasture - Recognizing the Potential: Profiles of
Ontario Graziers details the experience of 19 operations in
Ontario, available through OMAFRA. Ontario graziers also took a
field trip to New York to learn from graziers there.
The group identified a number of research issues and the
interest Dr. Ann Clark has shown in exploring issues particular
to IRG. Research indicates that animals require shade when
temperatures climb above 90 degrees F. Clark indicated that
there is little data to support the idea that streambank erosion
is primarily caused by grazing animals. She is working with an
interdisciplinary team to determine what motivates cows to go in
or near the water.
Much progress has been made in MI over the past two years.
In 1993, most graziers remained "in the closet", concerned about
their reputation as good farmers. MSU ignored the first
statewide conference on IRG in 1993. MSU now supports the
concept of IRG, and graziers are much more vocal about IRG.
Network members were able to successfully prevent the inclusion
of fencing regulations in MI's Right-To-Farm legislation. An IRG
Task Force was formed with financial support from the Michigan
Integrated Food and Farming Systems project. Graziers have
discontinued the state conference in lieu of a Great Lakes
Regional conference, scheduled for February 19-20 in Battle
Creek. This conference will also feature a Roundtable For
Grazing Facilitators intended for people who don't graze animals
themselves but who support and facilitate the work of farmers who
For more information contact John Bobbe, Great Lakes Intensive Rorational Grazing Network, 9896 County HWY D, Brussels, WI 54204 414/825-1369. This project is generously supported by the Great Lakes Protection Fund.