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Human experiences with the paired-paddock model deliver changes in farm practice

J. P. Trompf

Department of Agricultural Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3083.
Email:
J.Trompf@Latrobe.edu.au

Introduction

In 1993, the Grasslands Society of Victoria embarked on an extension program called the Grassland’s Productivity Program (GPP) to assist producers in the pastoral regions of south east Australia to adopt productive pasture technology, where higher sheep numbers can be grazed on fertilised pastures that contain productive pasture species. In the program, the participating producers worked in small district groups with each establishing a paired-paddock comparison on their own farm to compare productive pastures with existing pastures. Detailed surveying of the pasture management practices of 146 producers across south-east Australia who participated in the GPP between 1993 and 1997 revealed marked changes in practice.

It was found after 3 years involvement in the program producers had on average increased whole-farm P fertiliser use by 113%, stocking rates by 29% and annual pasture resowing by 31%. The producers also effectively developed management skills, with reported increases in their ability to assess pasture quality and quantity, livestock by weighing or physical assessment, and to calculate per hectare production and gross margins. In order to understand what the producers experienced in the program that enabled them to change their farm practices qualitative research was conducted.

Purpose of poster.

This poster presents the results from in-depth interviews with nine participants, five facilitators and a program leader all of whom were involved in the GPP from 1993-1997. A particular focus of the study was to explore how the different components of the program facilitated the changes in practice among producers. A second objective was to determine the extent to which the GPP brought about changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations given that such changes are recognised precursors for practice change.

Major Points

The components of the paired-paddock extension model, comprising of the facilitator, the paired-paddock, the farmer group and the skills training were all found to perform functions critical to the success of the GPP. Participants underwent a series of human experiences as a result of these component functions. The experiences which were motivational, encouraging, supportive, confidence building, as well as providing reinforcement, understanding and ownership. These collectively resulted in changes in knowledge, attitude, skill level, and aspirations of the participants, which in turn provided the basis for practice change by the farmer participants.

Conclusion

The positive human experiences generated by the program delivered the marked changes in farm practices among participants. Identifying these human experiences provides understanding of how extension activities must engage participants in order to achieve successful outcomes. It also provides additional points at which to evaluate program effectiveness and assist in the quest to continuously improve extension methods.

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