Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Back in August of 2012, several industry leaders, agents and specialists attended the Beef Industry Leadership Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Preceding this conference, a producer survey was conducted regarding current practices within Kentucky’s beef industry. These results were compared to those from the previous leadership conference a decade earlier. Some things had changed while others remained fairly similar.
During the conference, participants discussed the industry issues identified and developed action plans to address each of these issues. Land competition arose as one of the top five issues. As part of this action plan, the need to increase the efficiency of pasture/forage acres was suggested. Immediately after the conference, this information was discussed and an educational program was developed to address this issue by the University of Kentucky faculty members that co-coordinate the Master Grazer program.
One of the first steps in developing this educational program was a survey of the UK county Extension Agricultural agents. The survey was aimed at gaining insight from agents pertaining to on-farm demonstrations that would be beneficial for their producers related to grazing management. Weed control and stockpile grazing of tall fescue were the two identified by agents most often. This information was used to develop educational programs that might help move past increasing cattle producers’ basic knowledge of a topic and help them implement management changes.
Agents, specialists and Dan Miller, KBN Industry Coordinator, next took a trip to Arkansas to learn more details on University of Arkansas’ ”300 Days of Grazing” educational program. During the trip, the group was hosted by Dr. John Jennings, forage Extension specialist and Kenny Simon, forage program associate. Several farms were visited that implemented changes to their grazing management. For some it was the use of annual forges while others began to rotationally graze. The use of clover to improve forage quality and stand productivity was adapted by some farms as well. These practices were not new; yet, the program was working closely with the operations to help them implement the grazing practices that would help them lower their dependence on stored and purchased feeds.
The Kentucky Graze 300 program, as it was originally referred to, began taking shape as a result of this trip. The program objectives were and still are to increase producers’ awareness of practices that could help them manage their land, livestock and labor resources in a manner that enhances their grazing program. The intent is to increase the number of grazing days to 300 days or more as economic considerations allow. In some situations, it may not be economically advantageous to strive for grazing 300 days and focus more on utilizing stored feeds more effectively. For this reason, the program was given the name Grazing for Cash.
The Grazing for Cash program’s focus is on improving grazing and forage management. To help producers implement change, steps to incorporate and prioritize the identified focus areas are defined. The initial areas of focus include weed control, stockpiling tall fescue, implementing a managed grazing system, and improving pastures by seeding clovers. Additional areas include hay waste, creep grazing, use of winter annuals, and forages to fill the summer gap. Producers can work with their county agent and/or facilitator to prioritize focal areas and decide which management strategy can be implemented on their farm.
As the program is rolled out in early 2014, watch for announcements of Grazing for Cash meetings to learn more about how you can improve your land, labor and forage resources to help work through the increased land competition issue facing the industry and improve forage utilization on your operation.