February 2008
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AL Forage & Grassland Meet Gives Producers Grassroots Education on Industry Developments

By Kellie Henderson

Alabama Forage and Grassland Coalition Executive Committee member Dr. Don Ball welcomed farmers to the 2007 Alabama Forage and Grassland Conference held in Troy. Dr. Ball said no other conference brings together experts with more forage expertise.  
Over 200 forage and livestock producers from across the state gathered in Troy on a foggy and unseasonably warm December morning for a conference that may be best described as literally grassroots.

The 2007 Alabama Forage and Grassland Conference, a biannual event sponsored by the Alabama Forage and Grassland Coalition (AFGC), was the sixth conference of its kind in Alabama, and from the roots up, all things pasture, hay and silage were on the program.

Entitled "Maximizing 21st Century Forage and Grassland Opportunities," the conference was held at the Pike County Cattlemen’s Association building on December 13 and included a full day of lectures and question/answer sessions designed to put the latest information on forage production to work on Alabama soils. And exhibitors were on hand to showcase some of the newest products available for forage and grassland management.

In his welcoming remarks, Alabama Forage and Grassland Coalition Executive Committee member Dr. Don Ball stressed the importance of such a conference for Alabama’s farmers.

"No one has had a conference like this with the same quality of speakers we have here today. We’ve brought together a wealth of fresh thinking from all over the country, trying to help Alabama producers put the best management practices on the ground here," said Ball.

On the program that day, agronomist R.L. Dalrymple discussed crabgrass and other unique forage options and management practices, Dr. Monte Rouquette of Texas A&M University discussed opportunities with Tifton 85 Bermuda grass, Dr. John Stuedemann presented information on round bale silage, and luncheon remarks were delivered by Dr. Ronnie Silcox of the University of Georgia.

Dr. David Wright of the University of Florida spoke on crop rotations preceding the afternoon break, and wildlife enthusiast Kent Kammermeyer discussed food plot management. Dr. Carroll Johnson delivered a presentation on weed management, and Mike Davis of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System brought the day to a close with information on warm-season grasses.

The conference also featured the Alabama Hay Contest, sponsored by the Alabama Farmer’s Federation’s Hay and Forage Committee, in which producers submitted samples of hay and haylage for nutrient analysis.

Winners of the contest were: Red Nowland of Oxford for Cool Season Perennial Grass, Frye Farms of Guin for Warm Season Perennial Grass, Jerry Hill of Danville for Mixed Annual Grass Hay and Perennial Peanut/Alfalfa, and Charlie Bullock of Clinton for Legume Balage.

Butch Frye of Frye Farms said one ingredient in the production of his award-winning hay is his local Quality Co-op store.

"I buy just about all my chemicals and fertilizer from Steve Lann and the other folks at the Marion County Co-op. I’ve got Steve’s number programmed in my phone, and I know he’ll help me with anything he can," said Frye.

The Alabama Farmers Feder-ation’s Hay and Forage Director Perry Mobley presented Frye and other producers of the top three samples in each division of the hay contest with plaques and a refund for the cost of their hay analysis. Mobley said he hopes the prizes will grow over time.

"Promoting hay and forage testing is an important goal of the Farmers Federation’s Hay and Forage Division, and we hope this contest will continue to grow and improve every year, allowing us to award bigger and better prizes," said Mobley.

According to Dr. Ball, "If you are a forage/livestock producer, you have to keep up with new developments in the industry, or fall behind and miss opportunities. These conferences bring good information about opportunities for improvement, plus they give producers the chance to hear from leading scientists, industry personnel and producers from across the nation."

The Forage and Grassland Conference was held for the second time in Troy, and Dr. Ball said that a location for the 2009 conference has not yet been selected. In the meantime, producers interested in improving their hay and forage can look for one of the Alabama grazing schools hosted throughout the year by the AFGC.

Member organizations of the AFGC are the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.

For more information on improving the quality of hay and forage, visit www.alabamaforages.com or www.aces.edu/animalforage, or contact your local Cooperative Extension Office.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.