Northeast Pasture Consortium

Duration: October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2011


In 1994, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee stated in Senate Report 103-290, page 24, that “The Committee expects the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to develop a Northeast Pasture Research Consortium involving the ARS facility in State College, Pennsylvania, non-profit research institutions, and land grant colleges in the Northeast. This Consortium should promote applied pasture research, link existing resources, and foster continued state/federal and public/private partnerships for research in this area.” In response to this directive, follow-up steps were taken to plan and implement the “Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium” and what is now called the “Northeast Pasture Consortium.”

Issue(s) and Justification:

Forage-based livestock systems generate nearly two-thirds of the agricultural income in the states of the Northeastern U.S. Much of the agricultural land in the region is best suited for forage production because of soil, site, and climatic limitations. Sustainability of agriculture in the region depends on keeping forage-based livestock systems competitive and profitable while protecting the environment. Research has shown that grazing production systems require less fuel than those that depend heavily on machinery and pesticide inputs, drying crops, ventilating buildings, and the use of inorganic fertilizers. Because of the increasing costs relative to income associated with harvested forage-based systems, many livestock producers are using more pasture-based systems as a means of reducing expenses. Yet, the technological base of scientists and resource people to support sustainable forage-based livestock systems has decreased across the region. This necessitates coordination among the remaining researchers and educators, and collaboration with NRCS grazing specialists and livestock producers to identify, develop, and implement the technology that will increase the competitiveness and profitability of pasture-based systems in the region.

The Northeast research and extension directors approved the concept of developing a Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium in July 1995. A Planning Committee was formed of researchers, educators, and livestock producers. Its recommendations regarding the Consortium’s mission, objectives, long-term and short-term goals, membership, leadership structure, and oversight were approved by the directors in February 1996. Nominations for the Consortium membership were solicited from both the private sector (producers and agri-business suppliers) and the public sector (land-grant university research and extension directors, ARS, and NRCS) in July 1996; members were appointed in September 1996; and the Consortium held its first meeting in January 1997. Meetings have been held annually with the tenth meeting in February 2006. Attendance at the last 5 meetings has averaged 72 with about one-third each year from the private sector. The private-sector stakeholders are strongly supportive of continuing the Consortium.

The mission of the Consortium, as adopted by the membership, is to link livestock graziers and federal, state, land grant, and private research and extension groups into partnerships that will identify, develop, coordinate, and promote pasture research and extension leading to economically, socially, and environmentally sound and sustainable grazing-based livestock production systems for the Northeastern U.S. Emphasis is on dairy, beef, sheep, goat, and horse enterprises.

Research Priorities:
The following are pasture priority needs identified by Consortium stakeholders (producers, agri-business suppliers, and NGOs):

  • Determine the management strategies and costs of transition or conversion from row crops to productive and sustainable grazing lands and soils.
  • Quantify the economics of whole-farm systems including the effects of breed selection, livestock diversification, and grazing management on animal and pasture health and well-being.
  • Evaluate new forage species and improved varieties under grazing management and different climatic and soil conditions with emphasis on extending the grazing season.
  • Determine the environmental impacts and profitability of alternative supplemental feeding strategies for animals on high-protein pastures.
  • Evaluate the production and management aspects of pasture-based animal products for their human health benefits.
  • Evaluate the limiting factors and marketing opportunities in organic dairy and livestock pasture-based production systems.


  1. To develop and evaluate decision-support information and tools that help producers make appropriate plant, animal, and business management decisions.
  2. To develop pasture-based production systems that support economically sustainable livestock production levels and meet environmental expectations.
  3. To upgrade and enhance the Consortium website, the Northeast Grazing Guide (\<>), in order to disseminate pertinent pasture-based technology to users.
  4. To facilitate, review, and provide support letters for grant proposals on pasture-based research, extension, teaching, and technology transfer topics consistent with Consortium stakeholder priorities.
  5. To work directly with animal producers to determine and address their concerns and needs involving pasture forage production, animal nutrition and health, pasture and supplemental feed allocation, as well as pasture facilities, layout, and design.

Outcomes and Projected Impacts:

  1. Decision-support software is developed and released that can model a full range of pasture-based production systems. Available for use by resource people, such as NRCS grazing specialists, extension educators, and private consultants, to help producers make appropriate farm management decisions that increase their profitability.
  2. Collaboration with users provides better insight into what pasture-based information is required to improve the rate of adoption and make grazing more profitable for livestock producers. Improves the viability of the livestock industry in the Northeast Region.
  3. Grazing Guide website is kept current and informative. Increased viewership and dissemination of new pasture-based technology to those seeking the information. Results and recommendations are available to users in a timely manner.
  4. Grant proposals are based on priorities identified by users. New funds awarded for pasture-based research and education programs. Animal producers involved in proposals and the conduct of on-farm research and field demonstrations.
  5. Exchange of ideas and experiences with users is ongoing. Builds trust between the user community and public-sector providers. Assures relevance and accountability of programs supported by the investment of public and private funds.

Outreach/Education Plan:

One of the primary objectives of the Consortium is to disseminate new and existing grazing technologies to producers and other users. The structure of the Consortium facilitates the linkage of users and providers of this information. NRCS grazing specialists, extension educators, and private consultants are key participants in the Consortium and in the transfer of grazing knowledge to users. NRCS encourages its agency grazing specialists in the Northeast Region to participate in the Consortium.

NRCS conservation programs provide opportunities to reduce risk and encourage the adoption of new technologies that have been researched by ARS and the academic community. More research results are needed by NRCS that can be applied in managed grazing systems to help farms become more profitable. This will help NRCS achieve its mission to apply conservation to America’s grazing lands. The Conservation Security Program, administered by NRCS, provides funding to apply these new technologies.

Most of the grant proposals, supported by the Consortium to-date, have contained a strong educational component. It is clear from the discussions with producers over the last ten years that they support the need for continued research, but they want the results in a timely manner and packaged for both beginning and experienced graziers. The Consortium objectives also include the teaching of undergraduate and graduate students and development of curricula on pasture-based systems across the Region.

Consortium annual meetings bring together a diverse group of producers, researchers, technical providers, and regulating agencies. Through the exchange of perspectives and experiences, all participants are able to learn about and better understand the grazing opportunities and challenges in the Northeast Region.


The Consortium is lead by co-chairs, one each from the public and private sectors. In addition, the past co-chairs, the incoming co-chairs, and two members-at-large serve as the Executive Committee. The term of the co-chairs is one year. The incoming co-chairs assume leadership at the end of each annual meeting. The shared leadership between the public and private sectors is important to the success of the partnership. The Executive Committee handles the business of the Consortium between annual meetings and provides the continuity needed from year to year. Members of the Executive Committee are elected by the membership.

Selected Accomplishments (10/1996-9/2001):

The initial major Consortium action was to sponsor a grazing workshop designed to answer two questions: “What do we know?” and “What do we not know?” This workshop, “Grazing in the Northeast: Assessing Current Technologies, Research Directions, and Education Needs,” was held in March 1998. Over 110 people (livestock producers, scientists, educators, agri-business suppliers) attended from throughout the Northeast Region. A publication distributed at the workshop contained the presented papers that responded to these two questions (Krueger and Pionke, 1998a). Immediately following the workshop, the speakers and co-authors met with Consortium members and guests in a special session to answer a third question, “Of what we do not know, what do we need to know?” The participants identified 22 needs. They then selected six short-term priorities (4 research and 2 extension) and two long-term priorities. Leaders and collaborators were identified for each of the eight priorities. A supplemental publication was prepared summarizing the selected needs and the initial implementation plans for the short-term and long-term priorities (Krueger and Pionke, 1998b). These needs were the basis of competitive grant proposals submitted to the Northeast SARE program, the Fund for Rural America, and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. The Consortium also requested that a website on grazing research and education be developed to address the need for timely and effective dissemination of grazing technology to resource persons and producers in the Northeast Region. This effort was initiated by Tim Griffin at the University of Maine with grant support from ARS and in-kind support from the Maine Cooperative Extension.

Krueger, C. R., and H. B. Pionke, eds. 1998a. Grazing in the Northeast: Assessing Current Technologies, Research Directions, and Education Needs, NRAES-113. Ithaca, NY: Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service. 218 p.

Krueger, C. R., and H. B. Pionke, eds. 1998b. Priority Pasture Research and Education Needs: A Supplement to the Proceedings from “Grazing in the Northeast: Assessing Current Technologies, Research Directions, and Education Needs,” NRAES-113S. Ithaca, NY: Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service. 12 p.

Selected Accomplishments (10/2001- 9/2006):

The last five years have shown that the Consortium private-public partnership model can be productive and beneficial. Several recent accomplishments are as follows: developed in June 2003, a list of six stakeholder priority needs for grazing research and education in the Northeast Region that serve as the template for all Consortium actions; conducted in January 2005, a survey through NERA and NEED regarding the capacity of the LGUs in the Northeast to address our stakeholder needs (results showed very limited LGU research capacity, especially animal science); facilitated and supported grant proposals (with participating Consortium producers) to the USDA-NRI and Northeast SARE competitive programs, several of which were funded; continued development and use of the Northeast Grazing Guide website with financial support from CSREES; facilitated new collaborations and partnerships among Consortium members, e.g., Rutgers University Equine Science Center (research, teaching, and extension), NRCS-NJ (technology transfer), and equine industry leaders (personal experience) conducting joint field days and educational events for equine users in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic Region; and appointed a private-sector Stakeholder Action Committee that was successful in working with Congress during the FY2005 budget cycle to restore pasture funding for ARS at University Park, PA, and during the FY2006 budget cycle to restore pasture funding for ARS at University Park, PA, and Beaver, WV, and to obtain new pasture funding for ARS at Coshocton, OH — a portion of these funds are provided to collaborating land-grant universities in the Northeast Region and nearby states through Specific Cooperative Agreements from ARS.

Members (65):

  • 35 producers (dairy, beef, sheep, goat, horse enterprises; 12 Northeast states and OH)
  • 11 land-grant universities (research, teaching, and extension; 10 Northeast states)
  • 7 USDA-ARS (MD, ME, OH, PA, WI, and WV)
  • 2 East Region USDA-NRCS (Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) and National Technology Support Center)
  • 5 agri-business suppliers and buyers
  • 5 non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Collaborators and Other Interested Persons (156):

  • 72 land-grant universities (research, teaching, and extension; Northeast states, NC, and OH)
  • 28 USDA-NRCS-GLCI (Northeast states and OH)
  • 18 USDA-ARS (MD, ME, OH, PA, WI, and WV)
  • 13 producers (Northeast states, OH, VA, and WI)
  • 8 non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • 11 agri-business suppliers and buyers
  • 4 Congressional staff
  • 1 non land-grant university
  • 1 USDA-NESARE (Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)