Prescribed Grazing Management Project
Western New York, NY

Grantee: Seneca Trail Resource Conservation And Development Council, Inc.
Basin Program Funds: $15,152
Non-federal Funds: $10,588
Project Duration: 07/2002 - 01/2004
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Sources of agricultural nonpoint pollution continue to be a major contributor to degradation of water quality in the Great Lakes basin. These sources include sediment pollution from erosion and soil loss on active cropland, loss of riparian vegetation in pastures and the associated stream bank erosion, nutrient loading from the application of agricultural wastes, the spread of pathogens, and runoff containing pesticides. Prescribed grazing management has been shown to control and reduce all of the above-mentioned sources of agricultural pollution.

The technology exists, along with a growing interest among farmers to implement grazing systems in western New York. However, the demand for planning and technical assistance far exceeds the advisory personnel available to assist producers with new startup systems or the acceleration of existing grazing systems. The waiting list for assistance contains more than 50 livestock operators, with a waiting time of approximately 12 months. There is only one Natural Resources Conservation Service specialist that has been assigned to work with landowners in the 15 counties of western New York. A limited amount of assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension and district personnel is also available. The agricultural community, due to the limited assistance currently available, is under-utilizing the potential for agricultural pollution abatement using grazing practices.

A "grazing advocate" (a technician with experience in planning and implementing grazing systems) has been used in the past to provide information and assistance to landowners regarding grazing systems and their use. The advocates provide one-on-one assistance to interested landowners and have a proven track record in implementation practices. It is estimated that having three grazing advocates to assist landowners in western New York counties could reduce soil loss up by to 6,000 tons and reduce pesticide applications by 7,444 pounds each year.

Under the direction of the project administrator, the three grazing advocates will work with producers from a contact list supplied from the cooperating agencies. The advocates will provide technical assessment, planning and implementation assistance to the interested producers from these lists. We expect the advocates to meet with a minimum of 75 agricultural producers and complete a minimum of 45 grazing plans within the project time frame. Of the 45 plans developed, it is estimated that 27 landowners will start implementation within the current grazing season. At least ten pasture walks and/or demonstrations will be attended by the advocates to educate and foster collaboration between producers and agencies. The advocates will utilize existing grazing groups and individuals to develop peer-to-peer relationships with the new participants. Technology transfer among these peers will be used to promote information on techniques, equipment, and materials available for implementation of system and livestock management.

Under this program, the following tasks have been completed:

  • 39 producers were contacted to develop grazing plans
  • 35 conservation plans were developed
  • 2,396 acres were planned for grazing systems
  • 1,206 acres of grazing systems were implemented
  • 20 pasture walks attended, organized or initiated, with 979 producers in attendance
  • Two conferences were attended, organized and initiated, with 175 producers in attendance
Of the 35 plans that have been developed to date, 1,456 acres of cropland are planned for conversion to permanent pasture, of which 728 have already been converted. Conversion of land from row-crop rotation to permanent sod will reduce the application of insecticides and herbicides, provide protection and nesting cover for several species of mammals and birds, and reduce fuel and electricity use as the grazing animals will harvest most of their own forages for six or more months. Labor requirements and the cost for bedding are also reduced. Grazers will also experience a reduction (or in some cases the elimination) of veterinary costs by having healthier animals. Cull animal rates are expected to be reduced to half or lower as producers will now cull for low production reasons rather than health reasons, resulting in more heifers for sale.

The implementation process was slower than expected due to the loss of federal cost-sharing programs. Extra support came from soil and water districts, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service, and the Farm Service Agency. Only two follow-up visits were done because the advocates were busy assisting producers develop the grazing plans. Of the 39 producers the advocates had a primary contact with, 33 of them continued working with the advocates, resulting in completed grazing plans. One producer developed plans for both his heifers and his lactating cows. Another producer developed plans for both of his separated beef cow-calf operations. One suggestion was that this project should have been developed for a two or three year period, with the last year exclusively devoted to revisiting plan holders to aid in implementation of the grazing plans.

Contact: Ms. JoAnn Kurtis, 716-676-5111


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