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Ranch Practicum team receives grant to aid beginning ranchers


Grants totaling more than $671,000 will expand Ranch Practicum programs in Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado and will target education of both beginning and established ranchers.

Four ranch practicum programs will be offered per year: one in Wyoming, one in Nebraska and one in Colorado, as well as with a joint practicum involving both Wyoming and Nebraska, said Aaron Berger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Educator and one of the grant recipients.

Until 2011 only two practicum programs were offered, the Nebraska practicum and the joint Wyoming and Nebraska practicum. The grants will allow for an additional practicum programs to be developed in Wyoming and in Colorado and enhance the curriculum to provide information and skills needed by beginning ranchers.

The Ranch Practicum programs have already been successfully training both experienced and beginning ranchers since the Nebraska Ranch Practicum began in 1999. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program was an excellent fit with the Practicum programs that were already in place. The team from the three states that came together to develop this proposal brought knowledge and experience that greatly strengthened the proposal.

The Nebraska Ranch Practicum was started in 1999 by Brent Plugge, UNL Extension Educator, and the High Plains Ranch Practicum began in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska in 2005. Both are hands-on programs designed to build ranch management skills and tools.

Dallas Mount, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Educator who started the High Plains Ranch Practicum with UNL's Aaron Berger, noted the schools are eight full days spread over several months to take advantage of the learning opportunities that come from studying the seasonality of forage production, cow body condition score and cattle markets.

The new schools will be offered beginning spring 2012.

"They will cover what we see as four focus areas for successful ranching: range and forage management, nutrition and reproduction, financial management, and family and employee working relationships," said Mount.

Beginning ranchers who attend any of the four ranch practicum programs will also be able to attend a two day symposium that will provide information that is important to the success of beginning ranchers.

UW, UNL, and Colorado State University are co-authors of the grant and are co-project directors. The $670,890 grant is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The program will also have $167,722 in cost-share funds from the universities.

Program partners are the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Colorado Cattlemen's Association and the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition. "We are anxious to work with the Colorado Cattlemen's Association on the ranching mentor aspect of this project. Using the experience and skill of successful ranchers will be an important dimension to the overall grant" said Jack Whittier, Extension Beef Specialist with Colorado State University.

The partner organizations will distribute scholarships to attend practicum schools, train rancher mentors to work with targeted beginning ranchers and provide information/education to beginning ranchers at annual meetings and through quarterly publications.



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