Sunday, April 6

Grazing Mentors Are In Demand

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Producers interested in improving their grazing management are urged to sign up for this year's "Grazing Mentorship Program." The program is operated by the Saskatchewan Forage Council with funding from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

"The program is designed to hook grazing mentors up with individuals who are looking to take their grazing management to the next level, or even just the first level," said provincial co-ordinator Ross MacDonald. "It's a means of co-ordinating peer-to-peer grazing information and mentorship."

The idea is to allow individual producers to work one-on-one with experienced grazing managers in order to learn how to improve their profits, efficiency, forage productivity, and use of water and land resources.

"We have a number of grazing mentors across the province, so there's likely a mentor nearby," MacDonald said. "The majority of our mentors are quite experienced. A lot of them have dealt with intensive grazing, grazing large numbers of animals, grazing late into the winter season with both stockpiled forages and bale grazing, as well as alternative supply methods."

The program is partially subsidized, so producers pay only a fraction of the actual cost. Producers are asked to pay a $100 application fee, and the program kicks in an additional $600 to pay the mentor for his or her time.

"It is equivalent to about 16 hours, or two days, of mentoring. Depending on the individual's needs, those 16 hours can be split up however the two participants feel will work best," MacDonald said.

"Usually there is an initial visit, some discussion about where each is at, some things to think about, some correspondence in between, and possibly another meeting in the field season."

The discussion can range right across the grazing management spectrum, including fencing, watering systems, plant growth, forage species selection, dormant season grazing - just about anything a producer might have questions about. There is no limitation on the size of operation that can become involved.

"We've had a range of mentorships, from individuals who are just getting started with small numbers and smaller land bases, to those who are going from a small operation to a larger operation," MacDonald said. "Mentors say they sometimes learn as much as they teach when dealing with more experienced operators."

There are currently 12 mentors available in the province, with space for approximately 55 producers to receive their assistance, so it is advisable to sign up as soon as possible. Interested producers should contact the Saskatchewan Forage Council by visiting their website at http://www.saskforage.ca/, or by calling MacDonald directly at (306) 447-4600.

MacDonald is an animal and range agrologist who is also an active rancher, running a herd of some 400 custom-grazed yearlings and a small cow-calf herd. He says the mentorship program is just a case of well-organized networking with peers.

"The intent is not necessarily to prescribe any sort of management, but to provide a producer sounding-board for ideas or innovations, and hopefully to save people some mistakes and some time," he said.

"If nothing else, it's a great opportunity to get some outside ideas or just confirmation that you're on the right track."

For more information, contact:
Ross MacDonald, Co-ordinator
Grazing Mentorship Program
Phone: (306) 447-4600
E-mail: rossmacdonald@xplornet.com
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