Tag Archives: ben bartlett

Retired Extension specialist honored at Block & Bridle Club

Dr. Ben Bartlett was honored at the Michigan State University Block and Bridle Club Annual Recognition Banquet on Saturday, April 9. For over 30 years, Ben has helped better the lives of Michigan and U.S. livestock producers through his forward thinking, outstanding teaching abilities, and practical and usable newsletters, articles and bulletins.

In 1977, Ben, his wife, Denise, and three children moved to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) when he took the position of manager at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. In 1983, he became the dairy and livestock Extension specialist for the U. P. He focused on helping producers improve their production and profitability. He provided Extension programs centering on pre-sale vaccination, synchronized breeding research and low stress cattle handling. He also served by helping to coordinate the Michigan and multi-state grazing conferences over 10 years. He was also involved in the Bovine Virus Diarrhea (BVD) eradication trial, part of a three-year study to rid the U.P. of the disease. Ben was known for providing the information that farmers needed, when they needed it, in a way that they could connect to. He also sent a monthly newsletter to over 1,000 people for 13 years.

Ben was active outside of MSU Extension, serving as chair of the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Committee and the nonprofit Holistic Management International. His other international work included organizing producer education tours to Scotland, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. He also co-authored “Water Systems for Grazing” that sold over 10,000 copies, as well as a chapter for a Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service grazing workbook.

Ben has received many awards for his outstanding lifetime of service including the MSU Distinguished Academic Staff award, the American Sheep Industry Flock Guardian, Outstanding Extension Educator, the Epsilon Sigma Phi Visionary Leadership award, the Eisenhower Agriculture Fellowship and the Growing UP Distinguished Service to Agriculture awards.

In 2011, Ben retired from MSU, but he and Denise work full time on their sheep, cattle and grass operation. They provide grazing and soil health trials with a SARE Farmer and Rancher grant and have shared their findings at meetings in Michigan, Wisconsin, South Africa, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan.

Congratulations, Ben, on your recognition and for the effect you’ve had on our organization, our state, our country and our world.

Juan Marinez and Ben Bartlett teach cattle handling techniques.

Retired MSUE dairy educator Ben Bartlett (right) provides the expertise while MSUE specialist Juan Marinez (left) provides the translation during a workshop on low stress cattle handling techniques for 22 Spanish-speaking employees of Green Meadows Farms in Ovid. Photo by Steve Evans, ANR Communications.

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Workshops teach proper methods of safe cattle handling, communication

Recently retired Michigan State University Extension dairy educator and veterinarian Ben Bartlett has been providing expertise to producers for years. He used that expertise recently when he teamed up with MSUE specialist and Hispanic Farmer Program director Juan Marinez to put on a series of workshops.

 Communicating with your employees can often be complicated and fraught with misunderstanding. This can be further complicated when English is not their primary language. The MSUE duo combined their skills and knowledge – Ben in cattle handling and Juan in translating – to present workshops on low-stress cattle handling techniques to 22 Spanish-speaking employees of Green Meadows Farms in Ovid.

Juan Marinez and Ben Bartlett teach cattle handling techniques.

Retired MSUE dairy educator Ben Bartlett (right) provides the expertise while MSUE specialist Juan Marinez (left) provides the translation during a workshop on low stress cattle handling techniques for 22 Spanish-speaking employees of Green Meadows Farms in Ovid. Photo by Steve Evans, ANR Communications.

Using low-stress cattle handling techniques increases farm efficiency, profitability and most importantly, safety.

Introduced at workshops as the Cow Whisperer, Ben tries to get his audience to learn to “speak cow.” Proper body language is essential in people-to-cow communication. Ben knows that for safety’s sake, it’s important for cattle handlers to understand how cows see. For example, they can’t see the floor in front of them as people can. This makes cows very cautious about moving in a space that they are unfamiliar with. And this can make the environment that cows move in unsafe if handlers don’t know the proper way of relating to cows.

 Additionally, cows think of humans as predators and themselves as the prey. If the handler gets too close to the cow it will feel uncomfortable and flee. Keeping out of the cows’ “flight zone” will enable the handler to move the cattle without harassing them. This makes the job easier for both human and cow.

 And people-to-people communication is important as well. With Juan as translator, Ben was able to get his points across despite the language barrier.

 According to Juan, in Michigan today, 55 percent of dairy farm employees are Latinos. Although many come from rural backgrounds, they may not have livestock work experience, and if they do, their experience does not equate to the farming practices, traditions and technology that we are familiar with in the U.S.

 “If we in land-grant want to make an impact, we need to be inclusive of this workforce and bring them up to date on a regular basis,” said Juan.

 This workshop is just one example of many educational efforts to reach the expanding Latino agricultural workforce.

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Grazing school in Lake City educates producers

Michigan State University Extension ran a two-day intensive school for livestock and dairy producers interested in learning more about grazing practices and systems September 15-16 at the Lake City Experiment Station, part of the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. The grazing school introduced the 23 participants to grazing management practices through classroom instruction and hands-on activities.

Jerry Lindquist discusses various forage plants.

Jerry Lindquist, MSU Extension specialist, discusses the various forage plants found in pastures during the MSUE grazing school. Photo by Robin Usborne

 At the conference, Jerry Lindquist, MSU Extension specialist, discussed the various forage plants found in pastures. Ben Bartlett, senior district Extension educator, presented grazing system planning; Kevin Gould, Extension educator, focused on water system planning; Rich Leep, MSU professor of crop and soil sciences, presented forage management; and Rich Ehrhardt, academic specialist, covered assessing forage availability. Jason Rowntree, MSU assistant professor of animal science, addressed research on pasture management, and Allen Williams, Tallgrass Beef Company, gave a talk on the future of grass-fed beef. Producers left with some practical tips and real-world knowledge to use in their livestock and dairy operations. Participants learned strategies to optimize their pasture’s grazing potential.

Jason Rowntree, MSU animal scientist, talks about research on pasture management.

Jason Rowntree, MSU animal scientist, talks about research on pasture management to participants at the MSUE grazing school. Photo by Robin Usborne

 Pasture-based systems and the grass-fed livestock market are growing. The goal of the grazing school was to provide introduction material and hands-on training for new producers entering into the business. At the same time, the school aimed to provide information and training for seasoned beef producers as well. According to Dr. Rowntree, thirty percent of the school’s survey respondents indicated they plan to add 50 to 100 head of grazing livestock to their farms in the next year.

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