1997 Progress Report
SECTION II - Annual Report
1. Teach ranchers/farmers a process of integrated managementWestern Integrated Ranch/Farm Educationin three western states: Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.
2. Develop in-depth follow up training in specific resource areas, to meet needs identified by program participants.
3. Evaluate the program in terms of adoption of management concepts and resource sustainability following implementation of the WIRE process by selected cooperators.
Over the past year, the Montana WIRE Teams offered six courses, two courses were offered by the Wyoming Team, and the Utah Team scheduled two courses in that state. In addition, an hour-long satellite broadcast was organized and offered by the Wyoming Team. While this was funded by a USDA Managing Change in Agriculture grant, demand for the broadcast indicates the level of interest across North America in this approach to ranch/farm management. While site registration was not required, (coordinates were freely distributed) over 65 sites across the U.S. and Canada registered to receive the broadcast. National review team comments on this broadcast and program may be found in ATTACHMENT A.
In depth training on property transfer, goal setting, and other programs were offered to graduates of Montana courses. The Montana WIRE team also held an instructor training session, training an additional 11 faculty members. This brings the total number of WIRE instructors in Montana to 35. The Montana Team also developed and posted WWW (World Wide Web) pages supporting and explaining the WIRE program in that state. (This page is also cross-linked with the regional WWW pages maintained in Wyoming at http://agecon.uwyo.edu/wire/default.htm.)
In Utah two videotapes covering portions of the WIRE process were developed and filmed. These tapes will be used in future Utah and regional WIRE courses. The Utah team also spent time revising the WIRE course, as well as obtaining financial software training for state team members.
The Wyoming WIRE Team pursued program enhancement through: 1) marketing of the program to every County Extension office in the USA and some Canadian Extension offices with a brochure advertising the satellite broadcast and WWW site; 2) course materials revision, making course books more user-friendly; 3) disseminating information about the course and its philosophy of management to US producers through articles published in the USDA publication titled Managing for Todays Cattle Market and Beyond; and 4) making portions of the course materials more widely available to producers and educators in the US and the world through the WWW. In addition, a fourth state team Idahowas trained under a separate WSARE grant project and has already begun offering programs.
C. Specific Project Results
1. Findings and Accomplishments
The first objective of the project is to teach ranchers/farmers a process of integrated management. This objective has received most attention and effort to date. Over the past year 6 courses were offered by the Montana WIRE Teams, 2 courses by the Utah Team, and 3 courses offered by the Wyoming Team. Indicative of the growing demand for WIRE programs, the Wyoming team was contacted by two separate Australian Department of Primary Industries representatives, who also visited team members. It appears producers and other participants find courses spread out over several weeks more appealing than more intensive, multi-day sessions.
Evaluations of the 1995 courses (MT #1-2 and WY #7) showed that participants felt WIRE courses rated a 3.91 on a scale of 1-4. The 1996 courses (MT #3-7, UT #1, and WY #8-10) provided an overall rating of 3.44 out of a possible 4. Courses offered in 1997 (MT #8-13 and WY #11-12) were graded 3.62. For all WIRE courses offered to date (ID/MT/UT/WY) under SARE projects, the overall course rating was 3.56 of a possible 4 points.*
Other evaluation scores enumerated for all WIRE-SARE courses show that 96%* of participants would recommend the course to their neighbors at the same fee level, 76%* indicated they have begun to identify strategic goals, and 70%* indicated that they are starting to evaluate their operations enterprises and resource requirements, as well as 64% have started thinking in terms of individual enterprises rather than all enterprises together. In addition, participant response to the following questions resulted in the corresponding scores:
- To what extent did the program meet your expectations? 3.95 of 5*
- How clear to you is the purpose of an integrated approach? 4.29 of 5*
- How much of the information will you be able to use on your operation? 3.97 of 5*
- How valuable was the program in terms of money you invested? 4.18 of 5*
- How valuable was the program in terms of time you invested? 4.09 of 5*
* All reported scores are averages weighted by number of course participants.
Under objective two of this project, follow up training is offered to supplement the integrated management courses for graduates interested in more in-depth, discipline-oriented programming. Follow up courses on financial management and marketing and risk management were offered in Wyoming in past years. These in-depth, follow up courses are designed to provide additional information in the financial resource area. Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) and other educational programs were also provided for those looking to intensify the management of their operations.
In depth training on property transfer, goal setting, and other programs were offered to graduates of Montana courses. Many participated in these programs and have testified to their usefulness. In addition, the Montana team developed and distributed a Teachers Guide for County Agents, as well as received certification for Montana courses as satisfying FSA borrower training requirements (as are Wyoming and Idaho courses). The Montana WIRE team also held another instructor training session, training an additional 11 faculty members. This brings the total number of WIRE instructors in Montana to 35.
While 1997 saw cancellation of both WIRE offerings in Utah, strides were made in other WIRE activities which are enabling the team to offer what they feel is a stronger, more user-friendly school in 1998. Because of the cancellations, they decided to completely re-think the way the school is conducted and focus greater emphasis on implementation. The following changes were made in the way the WIRE program is being conducted in Utah:
- The format was changed from a two- to three-day block over two weeks to a school that is taught once a week over six weeks.
- Classes are held from noon into the evening hours, thus allowing producers the opportunity to finish morning chores and still get into town to participate.
- The case study ranch was eliminated from the teaching curriculum in order to place greater emphasis on using the rancher's own numbers to develop the skeleton of a ranch plan by the time the school has ended.
- Two additional video segments on setting strategic goals and inventorying ranch resources were developed for use in upcoming schools both in Utah and regionally.
The Utah team also organized training on the FINPACK financial analysis software. State team members plan to incorporate this software into future WIRE course offerings. In addition, team members in that state conceived, drafted, had reviewed, and organized the filming of two additional WIRE videotape segments. These segments cover Strategic Goal Setting and Inventory of Resources segments of the WIRE process. The tapes were made available to other state teams and will be used to enhance WIRE course offerings in the region.
Finally, a USDA Managing Change in Agriculture mini-grant program provided funding for a satellite broadcast to North America titled WIRE: A Proven Integrated Management Process for Agriculture. Members of the Wyoming team developed, tested, and offered this program in February, 1997. This coupled with the development of a case study videotape program (aired as part of the broadcast and funded by this SARE grant) helped to raise awareness of the WIRE integrated management program and associated management concepts.
The program was targeted for county extension personnel across the US. To ensure that all county offices would know of the opportunity, brochures outlining the broadcast, the WIRE program, and the WIRE WWW site were mailed to every county extension office in the country. Demand for the broadcast indicates the level of interest across North America in this approach to ranch/farm management. While site registration was not required, (coordinates were freely distributed) over 65 sites across the U.S. and Canada registered to receive the broadcast. National review team comments on this broadcast and the WIRE program may be found in ATTACHMENT A.
The third objective of this project calls for evaluating the following implementation of the WIRE process. A follow up evaluation of all 139 Wyoming WIRE course graduates (1992-1995 courses, one offered with SARE funding) was conducted during 1996. This evaluation resulted in some of the following testimonials:
- "Has helped develop a structure for long term planning for a ranch in transition from a subsistence cow/calf operation to a public land ranch used for the extended family (public) recreation. Decisions can be based on facts rather than emotion."
- "We have begun to use SPA analysis, have developed a business plan, have broken our operation into different livestock enterprises, are beginning new range management, and are developing additional water sources for better range utilization."
- "I took the workshop in anticipation of purchasing and managing a ranch. The subject matter has been very helpful in evaluating possible enterprises."
- "The WIRE program has really helped me to be more conscious of comparing enterprises, profitability of enterprises, relationship with employees and family, and also encouragement to be resourceful in exploring new ideas. We have placed a lot more emphasis on debt reduction in order to be able to endure low prices. We do use the information and training. Sometimes we get so bogged down in running the every day operations that we dont stand back and evaluate or improve management. I have really appreciated the WIRE training."
- "The WIRE course has been very helpful in my ranch operations. With the hard times in livestock production and marketing for the greatest profit, it helps to be able to fall back on the reference material and look for help. In my operation I work full-time off the ranch and still have a full-time job when I come home. I need to cut all the corners that I can and WIRE has been a great help."
- "We rated pastures by AUMs, did cross fencing, and more pasture rotation. It has improved."
Additional comments of participants of the course may be found under D1 below as well as in ATTACHMENT B news articles.
2. Dissemination of Findings
To date the findings of this project have been disseminated by several methods: popular press articles, WWW pages, satellite and videotape presentations, and through the offerings of WIRE courses. Popular press articles reaching producers mailboxes across the West have been published on the WIRE program.
Articles on WIRE were also included in a recent USDA publication titled Managing for Todays Cattle Market and Beyond. Recently updated, the Cow/Calf Handbook, published in Idaho included articles on WIRE written by a Utah team member. These articles have also generated several contacts for more information. In addition, continued development of the WIRE WWW pages advertising the WIRE programs in the region generates interest from many, as measured by server statistics on contacts/hits (http://agecon.uwyo.edu/wire/default.htm). ATTACHMENT B contains samples of newspaper and popular-press articles on WIRE.
A case study videotape coupled with two videos on portions of the WIRE process will help facilitate discussion on the subject of integrated management. Also, the taped satellite program funded by the USDA Managing Change in Agriculture mini-grant program has generated much interest in WIRE across the US. This mini-grant also paid for the distribution of case study video tapes to over 55 registering sites for the broadcast; yet another way of disseminating information about the WIRE program and integrated management techniques.
Also, through the annual regional coordinating committee meetings, state team leaders have shared experiences of participants and teachers from WIRE courses. These experiences and learning have been incorporated into the offerings of WIRE courses, thus immediately benefiting course participants.
Finally, meetings with other producer audiences have also provided forums for disseminating information about the WIRE program and techniques. Posters, presentations using the WIRE case study video, television advertisements, and other techniques have generally made producers in the participating states more aware of the availability of the integrated management program.
3. Site Information N/A
4. Economic Analysis N/A
D. Potential Contributions
1. Positive Benefits or Impacts
The program is being talked about in the ranching communities throughout the state, which has lead to requests for awareness of how to consider management of key resources. An example is the increased awareness of the need to address inter-generational communications on ranches. As a result, agents and specialist in Montana have conducted 11 programs as a spin-off request from WIRE participants.
Testimonials from Montana ranchers attending courses in that state indicated that:
- Participating in the WIRE course showed a marginal ranching operation, with three college graduate sons all trying to make a living on the ranch with dad, how to set goals and work as a ranch team. This resulted in two sons getting jobs off the ranch and the ranch terminated a purebred herd enterprise because of their lack of time and ability to properly market the offspring as breeding stock.
- Another ranch adopted a rest-rotation grazing system by dividing 5 pastures into 10 and by developing a new reservoir. The owner figures this has allowed him to support 15 percent more cattle, even while experiencing a recent drought. (ATTACHMENT B newspaper article.)
2. Farmer Adoption and Direct Impact
a. Changes in Practices N/A
b. Operations Recommendations N/A
c. Farmer Comments
Selected testimonials and participant comments gleaned from evaluations of Montana, Utah, and Wyoming WIRE programs offered under the SARE project include:
- "You are to be commended for your planning implementation and dedication to this project. We appreciate your enthusiasm, too. And how you relate to those of us working with you."
- "Workshop was excellent. Would have enjoyed it anytime, would recommend it to young farm couples on a family ranch or anywhere. You gain valuable ideas in all areas and excellent tools for monitoring and assessing. My biggest goal as a result of this workshop is to use more time to utilize these materials for the growth of ranch. Based solely on getting started and continuing a "written" monitoring program that we can pass down to sons."
- "Excellent program which has provoked much thought on how I am doing things throughout the year. Thanksgreat course!"
- "Being new to range and livestock enterprises, those areas demanded more attention & work - having a business background made those areas fun and enlightening in their application to all enterprises. Our first attempt at a ranch strategic plan we looked at resources and enterprises and dollars and developed our own tools - so the forms will be very useful."
- "The WIRE program is intensive. It is also extremely valuable. Finally, we have a program that really does tie everything together. I especially appreciate the goal, goal cost, and human resources concepts."
- "It was worthwhile for me as a manager. New ideas, new tools, a new process. I really enjoyed every person involved. The Team concept was effective to me. Sometimes a change is like a rest, although I didnt get much rest."
- "I think the group (team) was outstanding. They included entertainment and an incredible amount of education. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from these individuals."
- "As a result of participating in the WIRE class we are working together better and having family meetings."
- "Our family operation has worked out a more flexible arrangement for all those involved so there is less pressure on all involved."
- "I am more critical of operational inputs now. Not everything I was doing is necessary."
- "The overall course was very good! I would recommend it to anyone. There is always more to learn."
- "I feel this is an excellent course. I highly recommend it for anyone involved in agriculture."
ATTACHMENT C includes a letter written to the Wyoming WIRE team after a 1997 course.
E. New Hypotheses
F. Producer Involvement
Number of growers/producers in attendance at:
__ Field Days
736 Other events (specify): Contacts through presentations to producer organizations, extension meetings, and other marketing efforts. This figure also includes a "teach the teachers" training effort for Montana county agents in April, 1997. Eleven additional agents were trained. Montana now has 35 trained teachers. Twenty-one of whom taught parts of workshops in 1997. Five of the agent teachers taught classes at more than one location.
ATTACHMENT A. USDA Managing Change in Agriculture review team comments about WIRE.
ATTACHMENT B. Selected newspaper and popular press articles about WIRE programs.
ATTACHMENT C. A letter from a Wyoming WIRE course participant.