Greenhorn Grazing: Building Knowledge and Comradery

With nearly 20 producers surveying his land, Justin Rowe explains how he organized his newest pasture. He points out where he’s constructed a fence around a pond, individual paddocks and shade for his 100 cows.

Rowe is a graduate of the Greenhorn Grazing program offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He is now helping to instruct, provide information and networking opportunities to livestock producers across the state. This group is meeting in Madison County while another meets in Crawford County in western Iowa.

“I enjoyed my experience in the class and picked up ideas that have been helpful in my operation,” Rowe says. “In agriculture we need to help others, and share what worked and what didn’t work.”

Extension livestock specialist Joe Sellers (’76 animal science, ’91 MS agricultural education and studies) was part of the group that designed the program and leads the group Rowe is addressing.

“We call it Greenhorn Grazing, but this class isn’t just for beginners,” Seller says. “It’s for anyone who wants to upgrade their management skills.”

Greenhorn Grazing classes started in 2010 as a way to combine pasture walks and other meetings into a structured program. Since then, 12 courses have been held with over 260 attendees.

“You can show pictures in meetings, but then to go out into the field and see someone actually doing it. That makes it a completely different kind of experience,” says Brian Peterson, a retired state grassland conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and current president of the Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee.

“You can ask questions in this type of small group and get specific answers that pertain to your operation.”

Two or three classes are held each year around the state, combining the expertise of ISU Extension and Outreach specialists, producers and professionals from the agriculture industry and state agencies. Those partnerships are what makes the class so valuable to producers says Peterson (’71 farm operations) who helps Sellers teach portions of the class.

“These partnerships help us tell the same story and work together toward the same goal, using our diverse expertise to mold the program into one great package,” says Peterson.

Partnering with outside groups also helps Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists.

“There are areas where new research is needed, like fencing systems or weed and brush control,” Sellers says. “When we don’t have resources at Iowa State working on those issues sometimes industry does. The combination of experts adds a lot of value to our participants.”

The class helps foster community among producers as they learn from both the mistakes and successes of their peers.

“Producers have different approaches to management and those interactions are important,” Sellers says. “A lot of comradery is being built. Many attendees have created informal networks to stay in contact after the class has ended.”