Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 7, Issue 2 - December, 2014


Building a Successful Field Night through Collaboration

Bruynis, C. L., Assistant Professor, Extension Educator & County Extension Director, Ohio State University Extension
Fisher, J., Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension
Dugan, D.A., Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension
Grimes, J., OSU Extension Beef Coordinator, Ohio State University Extension
Bergefurd, B., Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension
Wells, K, Branch Manager, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center


Ohio State University (OSU) Extension reorganized in 2009 creating an environment where educators were encouraged to work cooperatively in newly defined Extension Education and Research Areas that encompassed 9 to 10 counties. Local educators identified the need to work cooperatively with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), Jackson Branch, to deliver an annual field night focusing on topics important to the cattle industry in Ohio.  Working cooperatively, OSU Extension and OARDC created a strategy to develop and grow a field night event to provide educational programming to cattle producers in the region. This included the identification of potential participants, developing a marketing strategy, getting producer buy-in of the program, measuring learning, and using participant feedback to develop future program. All these efforts collectively led to the success and growth of the Jackson Beef and Forage Field Night. Attendance increased by 67% from year 2 to 3 and 120% from year 3 to 4. Knowledge gain, reported on a six point Likert scale, ranged from 0.68 to 2.14 on key learning objectives with an average knowledge gain of 1.44 in year three and 0.93 in year four. Another important outcome of this program is it has elevated the importance of both OARDC and OSU Extension to cattle producers in the region.


Ohio State University changed its organizational structure in 2009 creating nine Extension Education and Research Areas (EERA’s) while maintaining a presence in all 88 counties. As a result of this reorganization the Agriculture and Natural Resources Educators in the Ohio Valley EERA met to determine the programming mix that was needed for their cluster of counties.  The livestock enterprises in the EERA contain a significant numbers of grazing livestock, specifically beef cattle. Also within the EERA was the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Jackson Branch. Several years prior to 2010 there were field day events at the OARDC Jackson branch, but they were discontinued due to lack of attendance.

The county based educators partnered with the leadership of the OARDC Jackson Branch to design and deliver an annual field night.  Research indicates that field events are a valuable teaching venue to promote understanding and affect attitudes and behaviors of participants (Presternon, 1986). The concept was to provide relevant information to today’s beef and forage producers while highlighting the OARDC Jackson branch facility. This partnership provided local beef producers the opportunity to learn about the research happening in their region of the state.

Program Design and Planning

The design of the field night used a traditional format with learning stations located around the facility (Presternon, 1986). There were three learning stations set up on the 502 acre farm for the first year. In the subsequent years a fourth session was added in the conference room to start the program in addition to the three stations. The participants are divided into three groups that rotated between the sessions on people mover wagons.

The marketing plan included direct mailings, web presence, mass media news releases, and local radio in each county. The direct mailing list started with the existing attendance lists from the previous field night events at the OARDC, Jackson Branch and was supplemented by adding each Ohio Valley EERA county’s beef producer mailing list. The direct mailing was sent to each producer 30 days prior to the event. Additionally, information was sent to media outlets promoting the program starting 45 days prior to the event.  The planning committee also determined that keeping the event on the 4th Thursday of August each year would allow people to mark their calendars well in advance of the promotional period.

Beginning with year three of the program, a retrospective pre-post evaluation instrument using a six point Likert scale was designed to measure knowledge gain. The retrospective pre-post evaluation was selected because it requires a single administration time and improved accuracy of the reported learning (Davis, 2003, Pratt et al, 2000).   In planning for the administration of the evaluation, time was scheduled in the program and an incentive to turn in completed surveys was provided (Shepard, 2001).

The purpose of the survey was to collect multiple pieces of information (Shepard, 2001). First the organizers were interested in measuring knowledge gain. But more importantly to the growth of the program, ideas for future program topics were gathered from the participants. The survey contained a list of possible topics identified by the planning group, but also provided spaces for participants to write in topics important to them.  The planning group used this information in planning the subsequent program.

Program Results

The first couple of years the program was marginally successful with attendance numbers of 32 the first year and 30 the second year. The third year saw an attendance increase of 67 percent to 50 participants. Attendance in year four increased over year three by 120 percent to 110 participants. 

During the third and subsequent years of the program the retrospective pre/post survey was used. The first year of the survey, participants were encouraged to return to the main meeting room to turn in their survey and receive a free forage production guide. Forty-six surveys were returned representing a 92 percent response rate. Results from the retrospective pre/post survey showed that learning occurred during year three (Table 1).  Providing value through learning is important if the program is to grow and be successful in future years.


before the program Survey Statements after the program
3.97 I am comfortable in having a simple conversation with any consumer about food production. +0.92 4.89
3.08 I understand what works and does not work when talking to consumers. +1.68 4.76
4.50 I understand there is significant misinformation about red meat in today's media. +0.82 5.32
3.66 I can identify pasture weeds common to the area.   +2.14 5.80
3.14 I know the best time to control pasture weeds based on weed biology. +1.78 4.92
3.32 I understand the different options available for pasture weed control. +1.60 4.92
3.71 I recognize the benefits of shorter stem length in hay relative to waste at the feeder. +1.40 5.11
3.42 I know the best "beef" management practices to follow during a drought. +1.47 4.89
3.47 I understand the forage options available to produce emergency feed. +1.24 4.71
3.32 I understand the correct steps to take to renovate drought stressed pastures. +1.31 4.63

Table 1. Retrospective Pre/Post test Results, Year Three.


Examining the results from the six point Likert scale pre-post retrospective survey revealed learning occurred at the four topic sessions. An average gain in knowledge across all ten measures was a positive 1.44 with a range from 0.82 to 2.14 gains. Statements 1-3 measured learning objectives of the indoor session on becoming an advocate for the beef industry. Statements 4-6 were associated with Session 2 on pasture weed control, statement 7 was on session 3 reporting research on hay stem length and feeder waste, and the final 3 statements were for session 4 focused on pasture renovation after a drought.

The second piece of information that was used from the retrospective pre/post survey was the topics the producers were interested in for the next year’s program.  Topics identified (Table 2) were then used in planning the program for the fourth year along with current issues occurring in the industry and the region. Topics selected from the list for the next program were: Making a High Quality Fall Forage Seeding; Heifer Selection Tools and Strategies; and Latest Heifer Development Research. The fourth topic titled Keys to High Quality Large Bale Silage was a response to a few years of difficult hay making and a shift to more haylage in the region.


Number   Topic Identified     
18 Fall forage seedings
14 Fencing technologies
14 Low stress cattle handling
13 Developing heifer replacements
11 Water resource development
10 Backgrounding stocker options
5 Marketing alternatives
1 Complementary enterprises
1 Forestry management

Table 2. Topics of Interest Identified by Participants.


There were some significant differences in the management of the group in year four because of the number of attendees and the limitations of the people movers on site. The group was divided into two with one group starting in the meeting room and one starting in the field.  This is important to note because this is believed to contribute to the low number (n = 33) of retrospective pre-post evaluation submitted at the conclusion since many of the participants left from the field without returning to the building to turn in the evaluation.  This year ice cream was used following the program as the incentive to turn in evaluations.

Evaluations from the fourth year indicated a continued pattern of learning among the participants.  Table 1.3 shows the learning that occurred with an average knowledge gain of 0.93 on a six point Likert scale and the range being from 0.68 to 1.47 gains. Statements 1-3 measured learning objectives of the session on making a high quality fall forage seeding, statements 4-5 were associated with the session on heifer selection tools and strategies, statement 6-7 were on the session focused on high quality large bale silage, and the final two statements were for the session examining the latest heifer development research.


before the program Survey Statements after the program
3.97 I understand the difference between soil fertility and forage species performance. +0.92 4.89
3.08 I understand the relationship between field characteristics (wet, sandy, etc) and forage species performance. +1.68 4.76
4.50 I understand the importance of seeding practices in relationship to forage establishment. +0.82 5.32
3.66 I am comfortable selecting replacement heifers for my beef cattle herd. +2.14 5.80
3.14 I understand how to utilize individual animal performance and genetic information to help select replacement heifers. +1.78 4.92
3.32 I understand the advantages and disadvantages of wrapping and ensiling round bales as baleage. +1.60 4.92
3.71 I am confident in my ability to harvest and store high quality baleage. +1.40 5.11
3.42 I am aware of the alternative ways to effectively feed and raise heifers to reduce expenses. +1.47 4.89
3.47 I understand heifer development options including breeding at a lower percent of mature breeding weight. +1.24


Table 3. Retrospective Pre/Post Test Results, Year Four.



Ohio State University (OSU) Extension, Agricultural and Natural Resources Educators, working closely with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), Jackson Branch created a successful program meeting the needs of cattle producers in the ten county Ohio Valley Extension Education and Research Area (EERA). Program success, as indicate by increasing attendance and increased knowledge by participants, was achieved during a period where OSU Extension had reorganized with limited resources available at the county level. Local educators identified the need to work cooperatively to deliver programs important to producers in the Ohio Valley EERA. Partnering with the OARDC, Jackson Branch, an annual field night was developed.  Working closely together to create the program content, identification of potential participants, jointly marketing the program, measuring learning, and using participant feedback to develop future program led to the success and growth of the Jackson Beef and Forage Field Night. Based on feedback from the participants, this program has elevated the importance of both OARDC and OSU Extension to cattle producers in the EERA.


Davis, G. (2003). Using a retrospective pre-post questionnaire to determine program impact. Journal of Extension [On-line], 41(4) Article 4TOT4. Available at:

Pratt, C. C., McGuigan, W. M., & Katzev, A. R. (2000). Measuring program outcomes: Using retrospective pretest methodology. American Journal of Evaluation, 21(3), 341-349.

Presternon, D. R. (1986). Forestry field days—An old idea that really works. Journal of Extension [On-line], 24(1), Article 1IAW1. Available at:

Shepard, R. (2001). Questionnaires for evaluating on-farm field days. Journal of Extension [On-line], 39(1) Article 1TOT5. Available at