A survey of twenty-nine grazing operations in Minnesota Part 4

By Brian Loeffler, Helene Murray, Dennis G. Johnson, Earl I. Fuller.
calendar icon 17 November 2006
clock icon 25 minute read

Pasture Development

Pastures were developed for MIG by improving pastures that had been continuously grazed, pasturing old hayland and directly converting cropland to pasture. All farms but two that have grazed intensively for over 20 years have used one or more processes to develop their pastures.

Existing Pastures
Eleven farmers said that they had improved existing pastures or were in the process of doing so. Forage species were altered by using frost seeding, managed grazing and no-till drills to introduce or select for desired plant species. Graziers noted that Kentucky bluegrass and white clover were overwhelmingly the predominant species present in their pastures while grazing continuously. Since adopting MIG, all of the 11 reported that species diversification has increased both with and without overseeding pastures. Many stated that red clover is now a predominant species along with Kentucky bluegrass and white clover. Respondents indicated that red clover, orchardgrass, timothy, smooth bromegrass, birdsfoot trefoil, reed canarygrass, Kentucky bluegrass and white clover presently are or are expected to be the desired species in their renovated pastures.

Converting Hayland
Twelve farmers reported developing pasture from land previously used for hay production. Managed grazing and reliance on the natural seed bank for species diversification was the norm. However, frost seeding and no-till drills were occasionally used. Desired forage species included red clover, alsike clover, ladino clover, birdsfoot trefoil, orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass, reed canarygrass, timothy and quackgrass (see section on other forage species below for more information on quackgrass). Pastures developed from hayland had higher occurrences of quackgrass along with understandably higher occurrences of alfalfa than those developed from existing pasture or cropland. Red clover, orchardgrass and alfalfa were predominant in the converted hayland pastures. However, forage species varied depending upon frost seeding levels and alfalfa stand density.

Converting Cropland
Fifteen farmers had converted cropland to pasture. Seeding after tillage was the most common method of establishing pasture. One farmer did not seed or till, relying exclusively on the natural seed bank for establishment. Nurse crops of oats and perennial or annual ryegrasses often accompanied seedings. Planted and desired species were the same as those listed as desirable above. Predominant species usually included red clover, orchardgrass, timothy and smooth bromegrass.

Other Forage Species
Pasture mixes, albeit somewhat different species and proportions, were used by most graziers. Desired species not found in commercially available mixtures were added individually. Forage species seeded and not recognized earlier as common species include tall fescue, puna chicory and sweet clover.

Several graziers indicated that they liked quackgrass as a pasture forage. One grazier said, "Despite its classification as a noxious weed, I often encouraged its establishment because it is durable and has high RFVs and CP levels." A few graziers reported adding it to their pasture mixes.

Methods of Changing Forage Species
Frostseeding was commonly used by graziers to introduce red clover into existing pastures and old hayland. Orchardgrass, as well as other grasses and legumes, were occasionally frostseeded. Seeding was accomplished by dispersing seeds on the soil surface or sometimes on the last of the snow. Many graziers indicated that they usually begin to frostseed at the end of March. Soil-to-seed contact was made by the freezing and thawing actions of the soil. According to several graziers, frostseeding appeared very effective in establishing red clover.

Grazing was often managed to encourage or discourage the growth of specific forage species. Graziers said that by knowing the growth and regrowth characteristics of forage species they were able to change the density of many species. This was most commonly done to rid pastures of undesired species. A few graziers reported using no-till drills to introduce grass species in existing pastures and old hayland. No-till drills were typically rented from agencies such as the Soil Conservation Service. Reported effectiveness was mixed. Some graziers were very pleased with the results; others were not. Conventional drills were commonly used to seed cropland being directly converted to pasture.

Establishment of birdsfoot trefoil was challenging for most graziers interviewed. Some graziers fed birdsfoot trefoil seed in mineral or concentrate supplements to encourage seed dispersion. It was also felt that the manure would stimulate germination and provide some protection from grazing because cattle usually avoid manured areas for a short length of time.

Herd Management

Several graziers said that they were beginning to change from pure Holsteins to crossbreeds and mixed breeds. Many claimed that colored breeds are better suited for grazing. Colored breeds were reportedly favored because they are:
  • smaller, which they believed resulted in less damage to pastures;
  • better able to withstand heat and flies; and
  • easier to breed back, which is important for seasonally freshened herds.

Graziers were asked to describe pasture supplementation and parasite prevention and control practices, as well as current and planned calving intervals.

Herd Composition
The 29 graziers reported milking a total of 1,673 cows at survey time. Approximately 90.2% (1,509) were Holsteins. Jersey and Aryshire breeds each represented roughly 3.5% (59) of the total. Brown Swiss were 1% (17) of the total. Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn and mixed breeds were each about 0.5%. The percentage of calves on milk, dry cows, steers and bred heifers was similar in all farms surveyed. However, there were slight differences in the make-up of heifer calves. The differences include Holsteins decreasing by about 3.2% (from 90.2% to 87%) and an increase in mixed breeds by 8.3% (from 0.6% to 8.9%). There appeared to be a trend away from Holsteins toward crosses and mixed breeds, although Holsteins are still the dominant breed.

Despite a shift from pure Holsteins, they remained a part of almost all crosses and mixed breeds. These included :

  • Brown Swiss x Holstein x Dutch Belted
  • Holstein x Dutch Belted x Milking Shorthorn
  • Holstein x Dutch Belted
  • Holstein x Ayrshire
  • Holstein x Angus

Pasture Supplementation
Twenty-seven farmers reported providing concentrate-type supplements for their milking group while on pasture. Two graziers indicated they provided mineral supplementation only.

The supplementation levels and feed stuffs used varied among the farms. All 27 graziers who provided supplemental feed intentionally supplemented to increase energy levels in the diet. Most indicated that they provided supplemental energy to increase milk production levels. A few graziers also believed that increased energy levels improved reproduction. One grazier said, "Cattle will settle better if they are fed some extra energy." Corn was the most common source of energy provided, but other sources included oats, barley and liquid fat. Approximately one-half (14) of the graziers fed hay, haylage or corn silage to increase dry matter intake and maintain rumen function.

Most graziers believed that protein levels in pasture forages or supplemented forages were adequate to meet protein requirements. However, six graziers indicated that they provide bypass protein supplements to their milking herd. Bypass protein sources fed include roasted soybeans, soybean meal, distillers grains, wheat middlings and sunflower seeds.

All 29 farmers said they provided mineral and salt supplementation. Most graziers said they force fed at least a portion of the mineral and salt supplement with the concentrate; the balance was fed free choice. There were several graziers who supplied all minerals and salt free choice. Six graziers indicated they fed anti-bloat products. Four graziers reported feeding their entire supplementation as a total mixed ration (TMR). The following is a grouping of common feed stuffs and levels used:

Number Feedstuffs and Levels Fed
10-20 lb. corn
11-20 lb. corn, 2-4 lb. oats, barley or soy hulls
12-20 lb. corn, 5-7 lb. hay, 0.5-3 lb. protein
18-24 lb. high moisture corn, 5-15 lb. haylage, 3 lb. hay

Other rations reportedly fed during the grazing season include:

  • 20 lb. corn, 25 lb. haylage
  • 16 lb. corn, 12 lb. corn silage, 1 lb. distillers grain, 0.5 SBM, 0.75 liquid fat
  • 18 lb. ear corn, 15 lb. corn silage, 3 lb. hay
  • 10-30 lb. haylage, 14-15 lb. of 12% protein concentrate
  • 6 lb. oats, 2 lb. wheat middlings
  • 7 lb. oats, 3 lb. broken roasted soybeans, 3 lb. distillers grain
  • 12 lb. corn and barley, 15 lb. corn silage, 10 lb. hay
  • 20-22 lb. corn, soy hulls and roasted soybeans, 25 lb. corn silage

A direct correlation between supplementation levels and milk production levels did not appear. Stocking rates with supplementation and milk production levels were also examined but, again, no reportable conclusions could be drawn.

Herd Health

Table 1. Reported use of parasite prevention and control practices by graziers
Deworm Annually Deworm 2X/Year Deworm 3X/Year Pour On Delice Fly Spray Ear Tags Larvacide
6 7 2 4 2 8 2 1

Other controls used include diatomaceous earth for deworming and using chickens to control flies. Six farms reportedly had no parasite prevention or control program in use. Several farmers were not using conventional parasite control programs and some didn't use any in order to sell milk labeled as organic.

Several graziers said that herd health has improved significantly since adopting MIG. One respondent said, "Since I began grazing my cows, I've forgotten the name of my veterinarian." Benefits noted include reduced incidence of diseases such as mastitis and improved feet, resulting in less hoof trimming.

Current and Planned Calving Interval
Graziers with seasonally freshened herds and those in transition to seasonally freshened herds, reported their planned calving interval was 12 months. Most other graziers indicated the same. Seven farmers said they currently had a 12-month calving interval. A current calving interval of 12 1/2 - 13 months was the current calving interval reported by most of the remaining graziers.
Manure Management
As mentioned earlier, most graziers consider the decreased amount of manure handling to be a significant benefit of MIG. The manure that did need to be removed from barns or lots was reportedly spread on cropland (19), pastures (13) and hayland (8). The manure was hauled in the fall (22), winter (9), spring (8) and summer (4). Few graziers reported applying manure on pastures during the grazing season; those that did reported pasture rejection lengths which ranged from 0 to 2 months. Most agreed that typical rejection lengths ranged between 2-4 weeks. Graziers noted rejection periods are affected by weather and form of manure application (solid, semi-solid, liquid or composted).


In general, graziers said they eliminated the use of some equipment and reduced the operational time of most equipment still in use. For example, several farmers eliminated the use of upright silos as well as row crop production equipment. Most equipment savings resulted from the reduced amounts of feed harvesting, storage, processing and manure handling. Information about specific changes in equipment use for all farms was not documented because it did not seem particularly useful. However, specific information about types of fencing and watering equipment in use was reported. Most agreed that fencing and watering cattle in a grazing system has been simplified because of technological advances in wire, fence posts, fence chargers, water lines and coupling devices.

Fencing Equipment
Graziers reported using many types of wire and posts in both permanent and temporary fences. High tensile and smooth steel wire were used by many graziers for perimeter and other permanent (paddock layout) fencing. Perimeter fences in pastures previously continuously grazed often consisted of woven and barbed wire. Some other types of wire used for permanent fencing include maxi-shock, aluminum, used telephone wire and poly wire. Poly wire was used to do most temporary fencing (cross wires); poly tape and smooth wire were occasionally used.

Graziers reported that wood and steel posts were commonly used for permanent fencing. Plastic, fiberglass and steel T-posts were usually used for temporary fencing. Other fence posts used include steel rebar, eucalyptus posts (without insulators) and Fiberglass TM rods discarded from the oil industry.

All but four graziers said they were using low impedance-type fencers. Reported advantages were the ability to use them with poly wire and tape, durability and ability to function when wire is in contact with plants or the soil surface.

Estimated fencing costs for the implementation of MIG ranged from $0 - $11,000 per farm. The average spent on fencing was $2,221. This amount depended upon existing levels of fencing equipment in use or present on the farm, size of pasture and paddock design. In some cases, post pounders, lane construction and fencer energizer costs were included. Costs were generally higher for those without existing pastures.

Watering Equipment
Graziers supplying water in the pasture usually purchased some new equipment. Supplying water with 3/4" to 1" black plastic pipe appeared to be the standard. Water lines were generally laid on the ground surface. Buried lines were reported by a few respondents. Most water lines were equipped with quick coupling devices to allow fast and easy attachment to garden hoses connecting to water tanks. Half barrels equipped with automatic floats were commonly used for both portable and stationary water tanks.

Respondents reported spending an estimated average of $627 on watering equipment; estimates ranged from $0 to $5,000.

Labor Changes

Reported chore time estimates were used to analyze the effect of MIG on dairy chore labor requirements. Estimates were used from farms whose herd size, labor force, equipment and facilities remained similar. Graziers also reported changes in whole farm labor requirements. Changes in labor force, equipment, facilities, alternative enterprises and farm size complicated analysis of the effect of MIG on labor requirements.

Summer Labor Needs
Changes in summertime labor requirements (difference between before and after MIG) ranged from +1.5 - 6.0/adult worker hours/day. On two farms there was an increase in summer labor requirements; on four farms there was no change and on nine farms there were small decreases. On the remaining 14 farms other circumstances prevented analyzing the specific affect of MIG on the labor needs.

Graziers reported saving labor from decreases in feeding, feed processing and manure handling time. One grazier commented, "Now the cattle work for us, instead of us working for them."

The survey inadequately addressed calving labor requirements for farms that freshen herds seasonally. The survey also failed to fully consider the labor needs for all-at-once calving. Therefore responses concerning summer labor savings may be distortedly large on some farms.

Winter Labor Needs
Labor requirements changed only on farms that had seasonally freshened herds or farms in the process of changing to seasonally freshened herds. Labor savings resulted not only from decreased milking time but also from the reduced feeding and manure handling time associated with dry cows versus fresh cows. Time savings ranged from 0 - 9 adult worker hours/day. The percentage of the herd producing was a major factor.

The Period of Transition to MIG
Often labor requirements increased as farms made the transition to MIG. Initially, extra time is needed for fencing, installing watering systems, seeding pastures and developing a new chore routine. Almost all agreed that as they gained experience, chore time decreased.

Whole Farm
Fifteen graziers reported whole farm labor requirements decreased significantly because of grazing. Many farmers reduced or eliminated cropland, often in favor of pasture. The reduced amount of cropland was responsible for the bulk of the time savings on many farms. It simply reduced or eliminated the time spent planting and harvesting crops and time spent repairing equipment. Labor requirements were reportedly reduced a little on four farms. Seven farms indicated labor needs remained the same. Two farms reported that labor needs increased significantly and one said they increased a little.

Again, some farmers' need for labor changed for reasons other than MIG. For example, several farms expanded their herd size.

One grazier pointed out that, despite the significantly reduced need for labor on his farm, he was still keeping busy. He stressed, however, that MIG has changed the type of work on his farm. He and others indicated they have substituted management for physical labor.

Changes in Daily Tasks The changes in daily tasks were noted as being much greater than changes in labor time savings. While impossible to place a numerical value on changes in tasks, many respondents viewed it as necessary for an improved quality of life.

Job Changes
Changes in the chore routine seemed to enthuse respondents more than time savings. Reduced amounts of physical and repetitious labor was recognized as one of the biggest benefits of MIG. Chores such as harvesting feed, manure handling, equipment maintenance, hoof trimming, etc., were reportedly reduced or eliminated on all farms in the study. In short, management duties have, in many cases, replaced those of a physical labor nature. Graziers frequently said that they enjoy the new challenges of managing cattle and pastures together. Respondents stated that they now have time to make actual management decisions since they have reduced much of the repetitive work. For example, one grazier noted that instead of raking hay or hauling manure he could focus on things like pasture supplementation or breeding schedules.

Time Off
Taking time off from the farm is more of an option since adopting MIG, according to some graziers. Hiring temporary labor while on vacation has become easier because of the reduced labor needs and concerns about equipment functioning properly. In general, graziers stated that finding qualified relief milkers is easier if there is less equipment to operate.

Responsibility Changes
Twenty graziers said there had been changes in their roles and responsibilities in the last five years. Nine farms said that there had been no recent changes. Ten of the 20 said that changes in their roles were the result of their changing family structure. These farms were either in transition between generations or respondents' young children were reaching the age when they could do chores. Five indicated that MIG has changed their roles and responsibilities. Four stated that changes in their spouse's off-farm employment have affected their roles.

Twenty-two graziers anticipated changes in their roles and responsibilities in the near future and seven said they did not expect any changes. Ten respondents expected changes in their family structure to change their responsibilities. This included farm transfers and an increase in available labor from maturing children. Four farmers said that expanding the herd size would affect their responsibilities. Four graziers expected physical labor requirements to be reduced and replaced by management duties. Other changes included hiring additional help, spending more time with their families and direct-marketing farm commodities.

Challenges and Opportunities

Most participants were very optimistic when asked about their future as dairy farmers (22 out of 29). Most agreed that they would have to deal with new challenges facing the dairy industry in order to prosper in the future.

Past Challenges
Adapting to new farming practices. Eighteen graziers reported that adapting to new farming practices has been challenging. These included converting to MIG and to producing milk, meat (pork, beef, chicken), and crops organically. Most felt the benefits from MIG far outweighed the challenges of converting to it. Some graziers were receiving premium prices for producing organic commodities. Labor shortages. Seventeen respondents indicated that labor shortage problems have been challenging. Many said such problems could be solved if they could hire relief milkers periodically (one day a week and a couple of weekends a year). This would free them from having to be at the farm every day and would enable them to spend more time with their families.

Cash flow. Nine farmers said cash flow problems have been challenging. Graziers who had partially or seasonally freshened herds expressed concern about cash flow most frequently. Most felt that they would have to adjust their spending habits during the period when cattle are not milking. Dairy markets. Seven respondents believed that dairy markets have been a problem for them. Problems cited include the structure of milk marketing orders, the increasing number of large dairy farms and the use of products such as BST. Some produced and marketed milk labeled as organic to secure premium prices.

BST. Graziers were asked what they thought about using BST and its effect on their marketing options. Sixteen disapproved of BST use, six approved of its use and seven were neither for or against BST use. Reasons cited for disapproval include concerns for human health, cattle health and possible milk price declines. One grazier said, "It is just plain bad for farmers." Another claimed, "Farmers will have to stop (using BST)." He, along with many others, believed it would ruin the dairy industry, beginning with small farmers.

Respondents who approved BST use generally regarded it as an effective management tool for some producers. Most graziers believed that BST will fail economically for the users, regardless of their opinion of BST. Sixteen thought BST will affect milk markets, ten thought there would be no effect and three graziers had no opinion.

Most graziers responding that BST will affect milk markets believe the impacts will be negative. Twelve believed that the increased milk production will lead to decreased milk prices and lower consumer confidence levels with farmers. However, 4 of the 16 think the impacts will be positive for them. They believe that the demand for milk labeled organic will increase, resulting in premium prices for their organic milk and milk products.

Seven farmers reported concerns about profitability levels. Most believed that milk prices have not been high enough to make a good return on their investments. Many thought that MIG would increase their profits by increasing their gross margins for milk products.

Other challenges cited were financing, soil fertility, calving intervals, ration balancing, manure management, pest management and grain marketing.

Anticipated Challenges
Anticipated challenges include: profitability (6); farm transfer (5); manure management and pollution compliance (4); developing pasture management skills (4); labor shortages (3); marketing milk and meat organically (6); adding alternative enterprises (3 beef, 1 manure, 1 green house); increasing farm size (2 dairy herd, 2 acreage); and marketing of farm products directly to consumers (3).

Current Problems - Graziers were asked about major short- and long-term problems.

Short-term Problems
Number Responses
Improving pasture management skills
Transition to seasonal freshening
Expansion and remodeling of farm structures and facilities
Labor shortages
High somatic cell count
Herd expansion

Approximately half of all responses related to MIG. Much of the balance pertained to the dairy farm but not directly to grazing. Other problems cited include forming a business plan/family arrangement, improving people skills, owning the farm and milking facilities and cash flow.

Long-term Problems
Number Responses
Increase or begin direct marketing of farm products
Improve dairy facilities
Manure management (regulations)
Transition to seasonal freshening
Labor shortages
Transition to organic farming
Improving pasture management
Herd expansion
Improving farms aesthetics

Other replies included increase farm profitability, increase leisure time, reduce debt load and obtain farm financing.

Long-term Goals

Respondents were asked to list long-term (10+ years) goals related to their farm business, family, personal lives and community service and public affairs. They were also asked whether or not their goals had changed since they began grazing their cows.

Number Farm Business
Expand herd size
Remain profitable with present size herd
Plan and implement farm transfer between generations
Increase profitability
Increase farm self-sufficiency; reduce input purchases
Quit milking in favor of alternative enterprises
Convert to organically certified farming
Switch to seasonal freshening
Reduce physical labor
Decrease debt load
Build new milking facilities

Number Family and Personal Life
Provide children the opportunity for post-high school education
Improve family's quality of life
Provide children opportunity to farm
Build new house

The family goals were centered on the children. To spend more time with the family was the only common reply to this question.

Number Community Service and Public Affairs
Greater involvement in church
Greater involvement in school and township
Increase involvement with grazing clubs, Sustainable Farming Assn.
Become volunteer in local groups
3 F
ind more free time for further involvement

Number Changes in Goals Since Grazing
No changes
Less emphasis on production level goals
Now have time to set goals
Now set aside more free time
Incorporate many considerations into single goal
No response

Several graziers reporting no changes in their goals stated that grazing has not changed their goals. Instead, grazing was viewed as a tool to reach their goals. Graziers who have reduced emphasis on production-oriented goals said they are now focusing on the bottom line. A holistic approach of combining several goals into one was now used by some graziers. One grazier said, "I now look at my farm as an entire system...all our goals must work together in order to be successful."

Supplemental Findings

The following section includes additional informative data. This section also includes suggestions for further research.

Effects of Under- or Overgrazing
Both undergrazing and overgrazing appear to decrease pasture growth potential. Plants that become mature are producing no net growth. However they take up moisture, sunlight and soil nutrients while declining in feed value. Conversely, plants that have a majority of their leaf surface removed (grazed to 1 or 2 inches) have to withdraw energy from their root reserves for regrowth. Table 2 shows that when more than 50% of the leaf area is removed, root growth is severely retarded (Bartlett 1991).

Table 2. Leaf Removal Effect on Root Growth
% Leaf Volume Removed 10 - 40% 50% 60% 70% 80 -100%
% Root Growth Stoppage 0% 2 - 4% 50% 78% 100%

Grazing Heights
In general, the recommended beginning grazing height is 6 - 10 inches at which time there is approximately 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of dry matter/acre. Initial spring grazing is the one exception to this. Then a 3 - 4 inch beginning height is suggested so paddock growth is staggered and remaining paddocks do not overmature. Beginning grazing heights should not be more than 10 inches. This is because forages 10 inches and less are grazed from the top down, while those taller than 10 inches are bitten off at the bottom of the plant (Bartlett 1991). As noted earlier, the tops of the forage plants have higher RFVs and CP levels.

Seeding into Existing Sod
Only legumes should be seeded into existing sod. Attempting to seed grass into a grass sod is seldom successful because sod competes too greatly to allow establishment of the new grass seedlings (University of Wisconsin 1991).

Bypass Protein Supplementation
In general, high quality pasture forages are high in crude protein (CP) but low in non-degradable or bypass protein. A recent study reported that Holstein cattle grazing orchardgrass pastures and supplemented with a grain mix containing 47% of the CP as bypass protein produced slightly less milk (67-80 lb./day) than cows supplemented with a grain mix containing 62% of the CP as bypass protein. Bypass protein supplementation may be beneficial for reproduction as well as milk production (Linn 1994).

Bulk Tank Method Records
Graziers in the study found the bulk tank method was an excellent, quick way of monitoring recent management strategies. However, it appears that none of the producers using this method keep written records of their daily observations. Perhaps developing a simple recording system to monitor bulk tank yield and daily feed would provide graziers with valuable information.

Impact of Grazing Cattle on Distribution of Soil Minerals
Grazing livestock ingest substantial quantities of mineral elements contained in the forage they consume. Typically, 70% to 95% of these ingested minerals are returned to the soil via excretory processes. Neither ingestion by grazing or redistribution by extraction are random functions. Both are dependent upon size and shape of pasture as it relates to proximity of water, landscape features and special features that serve as points of livestock concentration such as shade, water and supplemental feeding sites. Therefore, fertilization of pastures should be structured to apply nutrients only to areas from which livestock are removing nutrients to avoid further enriching areas of animal manure and urine concentration. Minimizing the development of single direction nutrient gradients in pastures should be considered during placement of watering equipment, shade and mineral feeders (Gerrish et al. 1994).

Suggested Topics for Further Research
Dairy graziers and conventional dairy farmers face many similar challenges. However, information available on dairy grazing is immature when compared to that on confinement feeding systems. In many cases, information must be extracted from data pertaining to confinement feeding systems. While additional research on numerous topics would help dairy graziers, the authors believe the topics of dairy nutrition and economics are immediate concerns for dairy graziers and dairy farmers considering MIG. Additional areas for further research are environmental impacts of MIG and why some adopters of MIG have discontinued the practice.


The first objective of this study was to obtain baseline information so that farm evolution of dairy operations using MIG can be traced. This was accomplished by completing the survey. Reported data will be stored for possible future use.

Developing predictors of successful conversions to MIG, the second objective of the team, is more complex. Since everyone has different values, beliefs and experiences, we all define success differently. Often we think of measuring success financially, perhaps because it is easy to quantify. However, there are many other gauges. In general, success depends upon setting and attaining both business and personal goals. It could be said that all farmers who have achieved their goals (whether or not they have changed because of MIG) could be called successful. For example, some graziers had the goal of increasing the time they spend with their family. Those who, after adopting MIG, can now attend their son's or daughter's school activities consequently can be considered successful converters. Other objectives like income, personal and business growth and security can be addressed similarly. More specifically, predictors of successful conversion include:

Defining goals. Farm managers who had written goals and objectives appeared assured about the direction of their farm. By having written goals, graziers were able to check their progress periodically and share goals with the entire family. Written goals also served as a way to keep score.

Planning. The transition to MIG appeared to be easier for those who had done some research. One grazier remarked, "By talking to other graziers first about MIG, you can avoid making some of the same mistakes they've made." In general, graziers who planned ahead had less difficulty converting their farms than those who just went with the flow. Some graziers planned their entire farming system very thoroughly. They planned according to their land base quality and size, available labor resources, equipment, facilities and market outlets.

The ability to obtain and apply information. Some graziers were effective in identifying sources of information. Some graziers seemed especially perceptive in knowing what would and would not work on their farms. Many graziers indicated that applying new information to their farm was more difficult than obtaining the information.

Taking an experimental approach. It appeared that farmers who viewed grazing as an art as well as a science recognized the need for continual experimentation. These farmers were not attempting to copy how their neighbors grazed or how someone told them it should be done. Instead, they were combining experience with new ideas.

The third objective of the team was to prepare decision cases that teach principles of effective farm conversion. This survey was used to identify farms willing to cooperate in developing decision cases. The decision cases are being prepared separately.

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