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AFGC combines art and science in livestock and forages

Progressive Forage Grower Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 23 January 2015
Gary Wilson, Ray Smith

The science of forages and livestock includes understanding everything from soil microbes, plant nutrient analysis and nematodes to dry matter intake.

The art of forages and livestock, however, involves producers who actually get out of the tractor cab and inspect cutting heights, adjust the tension on a baler or run a piece of tinfoil through a conditioner to see exactly how tight the roll gap is.

Presentations at the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) annual conference recently held in St. Louis, Missouri, successfully married the art of forages and livestock with the science.

Gary Wilson, 2015 president for AFGC, said, “The conference, attended by 250 people, featured highlights of our keynote speaker, Temple Grandin, and workshops featuring forage improvement, cool-season grass research, cover crops, baleage, native species, value of ruminant animal products for human nutrition and volunteer forage presentations from around the country.”

On the art side of forage and livestock production, keynote speaker Temple Grandin from Colorado State University kicked off the three-day event with a presentation on practical livestock handling tips.

Read about her presentation here, "Temple Grandin provides animal handling tips at AFGC annual conference."

During the conference, hay producer Clayton Geralds from Munfordville, Kentucky, stressed the importance of getting out of the tractor cab at regular intervals with a tape measure to measure cutting height, or assessing the windrow to ensure the rollers are breaking stems but not bruising leaves. Geralds also addressed the need for producers to fine-tune equipment adjustments.

“If you just bought a new piece of equipment and you think a dealer adjusted it properly before you bought it, think again. … It’s not set for your particular farm.” Geralds said.

Geralds discussed each step of hay harvesting, including cutting, conditioning, tedding, raking and baling, and the equipment and process for adjusting equipment during each step. Geralds said, “Consistency is the goal,” and to do that producers need to read the operators’ manual for each piece of equipment.

AFGC conference audience

Wesley Tucker, from the University of Missouri, presented practical ways to evaluate whether it’s more cost effective to raise or purchase replacement heifers. Tucker said the decision is highly subjective based on how a producer values inputs. Numbers and valuations can be manipulated to match any production style a producer desires, so the real question becomes: Do you have the right herd genetics going forward? If you can improve your genetics with purchased herd females, then purchasing makes sense. If you can’t improve the genetics with a purchase, then raising replacements may be the better option.

Tucker also addressed the “DIRTI five” (depreciation, interest, repair, taxes and insurance) in negotiating lease or livestock-share agreements. In the past, lease or livestock-share agreements have generally placed costs in two categories: 60 percent as operating cost and 40 percent in cost of ownership. However, current economic issues with cattle prices and land cost have brought the cost-profit split closer to 50-50.

The science side of the conference was represented in several presentations, including an overview by Scott Flynn (Dow AgroSciences) outlining decision-making steps when spraying for weeds in pastures. Flynn said chemical weed application choices should be based on whether the producer is trying to increase the pounds of beef per acre, improve animal health, increase grass yield, control noxious weeds or improve aesthetics. Some decisions will result as an evaluation of the economic weed threshold and consideration of management style. In short, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Other presentations included trial data with summer annuals, warm-season grasses, ryegrass and fescue research. Roger Staff, grazing specialist with NRCS in Greenville, Illinois, discussed NRCS cover-crop programs and decision tools available to determine cover-crop potential.

Wilson said, “The 2015 AFGC board of directors consists of 24 people from 15 states, with one-third representing producers, one-third from industry and one-third from the public sector. A major program being planned for 2015 is promoting a National Forage Week during June 21-27. During this week, we will have increased emphasis promoting forages and educating people on the importance of all forages to the world.”

Awards
Outstanding individuals to the forage industry were recognized at the annual convention. Award recipients included:

  • National Pastureland Conservationist of the Year – Eddie Jolley (Alabama State grazing land specialist)
  • Merit Awards – Dr. Dirk Philipp (assistant professor, University of Arkansas), Robert Shoemaker (Virginia livestock producer), Dr. Dennis Hancock (assistant professor, University of Georgia) and V. Mac Baldwin (North Carolina livestock producer)
  • Distinguished Grasslander Award – Dr. Garry Lacefield (professor, University of Kentucky) and Dr. Don Ball (professor emeritus, Auburn University)
  • Medallion Award – Dr. Chris Teutsch (professor, Virginia Tech – Southern Piedmont)
  • Allen Illumination Award – Kim Stine (national GLCI coordinator, Fort Worth, Texas)
  • Presidential Citation – Dr. Geoff Brink (USDA-ARS research agronomist, Madison, Wisconsin)

Contests
2015 competition winners were announced in several categories, including:

  • Forage Bowl – Kansas State University team
  • Photo contest (overall) – Will Bowling, Kentucky
  • Emerging scientist – Jonathan Richwine, Mississippi State University
  • Forage spokesperson – Heather Graham, Kentucky
  • Youth essays – Cole Diggens, Missouri (age 14 to 18); Jake Tower, Indiana (age 14 and under)
  • President’s Award – Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland Council
  • Hay contest – Randall Reed, Arkansas (first place, category one and two), and Eddy Turner, Georgia (first place, category three)

Outgoing president Ray Smith said, “The mission statement of the American Forage and Grassland Council states that we exist ‘to promote the use of forages through education, communication and professional development of producers, industry, scientists and educators.’ Communication was one of my primary goals as AFGC president in 2014, and AFGC now provides to members: forage updates through monthly email blasts, expanded YouTube channel, updated Forage Leader newsletter, updated social media presence, outstanding annual conference, state affiliate council events and improved linkages with national forage organizations, including National Hay Association (NHA), National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance (NAFA), and National Forage Testing Association (NFTA).”

Mark your calendars for the 2016 American Forage and Grassland Council conference, “Foraging for Profit,” which will be held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jan. 10-13, 2016.  FG

To access the conference proceedings, competition essays and photos, contact Tina Bowling by email. Go to the AFGC website to find out more and to become a member of AFGC.

PHOTOS
PHOTO 1: Ray Smith (right), 2014 AFGC president, passes the gavel to incoming president Gary Wilson (left) of Ohio.

PHOTO 2: Participants gather to hear presentations at the 2015 American Forage and Grassland Council annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Photos by Lynn Jaynes.

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