BEHAVE Facilitators’ Network

BEHAVE Facilitators’ Network

BEHAVE Facilitators’ Network

The Challenge

Both pasture- and range-based livestock operations face challenges such as invasive species. The use of herbicides can increase costs to ranchers. In addition, concerns over potential undesirable environmental effects of herbicides also encourage ranchers, land managers, weed specialists, and range scientists to look for ecologically and economically viable ways to manage the land. Another challenge facing ranchers and land managers is pressure to improve management of domestic grazing in riparian areas. Ranchers’ income can be decreased by the cost of fencing livestock out of riparian areas and reducing numbers or removing livestock from the area.

Kathy Voth, a livestock consultant, believed that an effective new approach may lie in the animals themselves. Previous research, along with successful implementation by ranchers, demonstrated the potential for livestock behavior to be modified and managed to improve and restore pastures and rangelands. She and the project team based in Utah designed a Western SARE Professional Development project, BEHAVE Facilitators’ Network (EW04-016), to address the need for more education about using livestock’s natural behavior to manage weeds and other vegetation. According to Voth, the project was developed to “continuously expand the network of trained, agriculture professionals to facilitate understanding and application of behavioral principles to increase environmental integrity, quality of life for people and animals, and economic viability of agricultural enterprises.”

Searching for a Solution

Voth and her team aimed to develop a network of individuals:

  • Trained in behavioral principles.
  • Ready and able to teach others.
  • Capable of helping producers implement behavioral solutions to problems.

At the time of the project’s implementation, extension personnel in 10 Western states had agreed to be part of this training and to serve as their state’s coordinator. Several ranchers also agreed to work with the training network by providing sites where behavioral techniques have been employed to solve management issues.

The goal was that each State Coordinator would train at least 10 facilitators in their home states who would then train others. In addition, the network would work with producers and agency staff by sharing information, materials, and practical strategies to successfully implement new livestock management methods.

Handbooks, videos, CDs, and a website were to be developed and the team was to ensure the use of training strategies suitable for adult learners, including workshops and problem-solving field tours.

What was Accomplished

Voth and her team trained 10 state coordinators and 135 facilitators in behavioral principles. Workshops were held in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Prior to the formation of the BEHAVE Facilitator’s Network, many of the workshop participants had not been aware of animal behavior research being conducted at Utah State University and other universities. After their attendance, participants reported a greater understanding of the information provided. According to surveys conducted at the end of many workshops, workshop participants rated their understanding of the information presented as 2.56 on a scale of 3 with 3 meaning “I understand completely” and 2 meaning “I can review the guide to understand.” Many reported feeling confident to put on their own workshops about behavior. In addition, they left with support materials to learn more and were provided materials to distribute at their own workshops.

The BEHAVE Facilitator Handbook was created in 2006. The notebook includes: 1) a description of the BEHAVE Facilitators’ Network, 2) tips and hints for successful presentations and workshops, 3) information about learning styles and adoption of new information, 4) copies of PowerPoint slides, 5) many fact sheets, 6) examples of applying behavior principles in livestock and wildlife management, and 7) step-by step instructions for training animals for demonstrations. It also includes 3 CDs and 4 DVDs. CDs include: 1) 9 annotated slide shows that overview the principles of behavior, 2) an online course about behavior, 3) a video CD designed for producers entitled "Using livestock behavior on your operation." DVDs include: 1) "Foraging behavior," 2) "Turning cows into weed managers," 3) video clips of animals demonstrating behavior principles, and 4) interviews with producers. The materials also include the book "Foraging Behavior: Managing to Survive in a World of Change." A website was also created.


  • Forty additional handbooks were distributed to educators.
  • Nevada and Utah educators incorporated a presentation about behavioral principles into the Nevada Rangeland Management Schools for Ranchers. Presentations have also been given in other states.
  • A survey reports that about 20% of respondents said that the workshop fundamentally changed the way they viewed managing animals, 40% said it clarified observation made in the field, and the remaining 40% said they were familiar with the BEHAVE project but that the workshop gave them additional information and materials.

Post-Project Activities and Impacts

As Voth continues her extensive work providing presentations and trainings, writing a book “Cows Eat Weeds,” maintaining a website, and starting with a friend a community-supported newsletter “On Pasture,” she has seen increasing interest in animal behavior and grazing in the past 10 years.  She maintains that audiences at workshops have changed from an attitude of skepticism to one of “this could work.” “On Pasture”, begun in March 2013, currently has 24,000 readers per month and her book is in its second printing. The BEHAVE Facilitators Network continues after 10 years, under the direction of Beth Burritt at Utah State University, with most of the original members involved.

Where to Learn More

Facilitators’ Network website

includes handbook and other resources

Kathy Voth’s website

includes blog and links for signing up for newsletter and social media feeds

On Pasture’s Newsletter

Utah State University’s BEHAVE website

includes newsletter and other publications

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) EW04-016, BEHAVE Facilitators’ Network .

Product specs
Location: Utah | West

2016 Annual Report

For the first time, we are sharing a yearly snapshot of our work. The stories provided here typify the creative, participatory and integrated research Western SARE annually funds – led by land grant institution researchers and graduate students, Extension and other ag professionals, and nonprofit leaders in full partnership with producers.