by Jesse Bussard
That was the theme for this year’s American Forage and Grassland Council‘s Conference that I attended held in French Lick, Indiana and hosted by the Indiana Forage Council on June 12-15. The conference featured many presentations about forage production and utilization practices to help producers be more profitable and allowed many researchers, extension agents, forage specialists, industry representatives, and producers to discuss and share about some of the latest in forage production and grazing research.
I attended the Monday and Tuesday sessions of the conference. First up was a panel of speakers who elaborated on various methods to manage pasture canopy for increased pasture production and forage quality. The first speaker, Glenn Shewmaker shared how light interception and forage production is affected by grazing forages at different heights. Secondly was Dave Barker who gave a great talk on the use of pasture mass as a predictor of herbage accumulation rate and the implications it has for pasture production. The next two speakers, Geoff Brink and Tom Griggs touched on how grazing management affects temperate grass growth and how the non-structural carbohydrate content and digestibility of grasses changes over time. Both of these are important topics to consider when designing an effective grazing plan for livestock.
USDA-ARS, NRCS, and other collaborators gave an overview of a research literature review they are currently finishing up that is assessing the conservation outcomes from pastureland and hayland practices. They also touched on recommendations for future research and noted where there are some knowledge gaps where more research is needed. An executive summary of their findings is set to be published and available both online and in print later this year.
Monday afternoon followed up with three breakout sessions, each featuring a different topic area in forages, including utilization, outreach/production, and energy. I attended the utilization breakout session which featured several speakers. My graduate advisor, Dr. Glen Aiken, and my fellow graduate student, Ben Goff, spoke of the benefits of using chemical control to suppress seedhead emergence in tall fescue to improve weight gain and physiology. We are currently running a grazing trial researching this very subject so it was great to see some of the data being presented to other researchers and producers and hearing their perspectives. Dr. John Jennings of the University of Arkansas gave a very interesting overview of a survey and new recommendations that UA is prescribing for producers to improve cow/calf production systems using limited acres of novel endophyte tall fescue in toxic fescue forage systems.
Tuesday morning started out with two more breakout sessions that ran consecutively, one on harvest/production and the other on forage research/utilization. Don Miller of Producers Choice Seed touched on some of the high yielding, high quality benefits of teff grass. Teff grass is a warm season annual grass that can be utilized during the summer months to help with the forage production slump many producers deal with. He also mentioned some of the research that had been done at Penn State University that suggests teff hay is a great alternative to other cool season forages for horses prone to metabolic disorders and laminitis. Having worked on that project, it was great to see my work being talked about by others in the industry.
I ended up having to leave the conference early on Tuesday afternoon because of other commitments. Since we are right in the middle of peak grazing season here in central Kentucky I had to get back to help collect data on our ongoing grazing trial. If I had stayed AFGC had some great farm tours planned for attendees and an evening event at the Purdue Agronomy Research Farm. They also had more forage related speaker sessions planned for the following day.
Though I was unable to stay for the whole conference, overall AFGC was a great experience. It provided a great opportunity to network with others involved in the the forage and pasture production realm and learn about new research and recommendations to improve pasture production and forage quality. If you’re interested in learning more about the AFGC Conference you can visit their website at http://www.afgc.org/. The 2012 conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky from January 9-11.