2014 VA Forage and Grassland Council’s Winter Forage Conferences

The Role of Healthy Soil in Profitable Ruminant Livestock Production is the Focus for the 2014 Winter Forage Conferences

Gordon Groover, Extension Specialists, Ag and Applied Economics, VA Tech

Soil Health: The Foundation of Profitable Ruminant Livestock Production is the theme for the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council (VFGC) and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) winter forage conferences.  We take for granted the ground under our feet and call it dirt. We should realize that quality of life is dependent on the health and quality of our soils. Farmers understand the management principles necessary to produce healthy forages, ruminants, and profits, yet many are unaware of what additional benefits are gained from managing to improve the health of their soils. This year’s program will provide training in soil health and participants will gain greater knowledge of the soil’s potential, the foundation of all agriculture. 

This year’s keynote speaker is Joshua Dukart of Dukart Farms near Bismarck, North Dakota. This family farm’s primary enterprises are cow-calf, equine, stocker, and forage crops. This ranch focuses on regenerative land management through enhancement of soil health.  Mr. Dukart is also a field representative for the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, and member of the Burleigh County Soil Conservation District team in Bismarck, North Dakota. He brings a wealth of practical information from his experience making day-to-day decisions on the family farm and the work with other farmers in his Soil Conservation District.  In his morning presentation he will discuss the key principles in managing for healthy soils and the bottom-line reasons why livestock producers should care. After lunch, Mr. Dukart will explain the relationships between soils and the grazing animals that depend daily on the products of healthy soils, in a presentation titled, Grazing With Purpose: It’s more than just rotational grazing.

Participants will also hear from Dr. Jennifer Moore-Kucera, Assistant Professor of Soil & Environmental Microbiology at Texas Tech University, she will present practical findings about ongoing research projects that focus on soil microbes and soil health in integrated crop-livestock systems in the Southern High Plains region.

Invited back from West Virginia University is Dr. Ed Rayburn, Dr. Rayburn’s presentation, Introduction to Pasture Ecology, will explain what lives in our soil and what helps these organisms thrive.

The VFGC and VCE will again feature local livestock producers at each workshop site to discuss “Using grazing strategies to improve soil health on my farm”. Each of these producers will provide conference participants with real insight on the challenges and benefits of improving soil health in their grazing system.

The daylong conference will be repeated at four locations:

  • Monday, January 27, 2014, Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone.
  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014, Wytheville Meeting Center, Wytheville.
  • Wednesday, January 29, 2014, Weyers Cave Community Center, Weyers Cave.
  • Thursday, January 30, Brandy Station Fire Department, Brandy Station.

The conferences will run from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

For more information or to register for the conference, contact Margaret Kenny (makenny@vt.edu) at (434) 292-5331.  The $35 early registration fee must be postmarked by Jan. 3, 2014. After the New Year, the registration fee is $50 per person. This Soil Health Conference is funded in part by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant from the NRCS in VA.

Please visit the VFGC web site (http://vaforages.org) for additional details and registration information.

2014 VFGC Winter Forage Conferences Agendas

8:30 am Registration
9:00 – 10:15 am Principles of Soil Health: What is it, how does it apply and why should we care? – Joshua Dukart, Bismarck, ND
10:15 – 10:45 am Break- Visit Sponsors
10:45 – 11:45 am Introduction to Pasture Ecology, Ed Rayburn, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
11:45 – 12:00 noon Soil Health and Grazing Management:  Putting Science into Practice – An Integrated Educational Program for Virginia’s Forage and Livestock Producers – Patty Johnson, President VFGC, Culpepper, VA
12:00  – 1:00 pm Lunch- Visit Sponsors and Network
1:00 – 1:15 pm Ecology of Grazing Lands – VT Students
1:15 – 1:30 pm Virginia Cattlemen’s Update – Jason Carter, Executive Director of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association
1:30 – 2:30 pm Soil Microbes and Soil Health: Assessing Management Impacts on Soil Microbial Communities- Jennifer Moore-Kucera, Texas Tech, University, Lubbock, TX
2:30 – 3:00 pm Using Grazing Strategies to Improve Soil Health on my Farm -Blackstone  –  C.J. Isbell, Hanover CountyWytheville  –  J.C. Winstead, Craig CountyWeyers Cave –  J.C. Winstead, Craig CountyBrandy Station – Roy Boldridge, Culpeper County
3:00 – 4:00 pm Grazing With Purpose: It’s more than just Rotational Grazing! – Joshua Dukart, Bismarck, ND
4:00 pm Adjourn

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