Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Turning hayfields into pastures

By Jim Gerrish
With the ever-increasing cost of making hay, more and more ranchers are kicking the hay habit and pushing their livestock to graze more days of the year. A lot of those ranchers are learning along the way that their best hayfields don’t necessarily make the best pastures. Historically, hayfields in the U.S. have fallen into three broad categories: alfalfa, N-fertilized grass monocultures or grass-legume mixtures. Of these three options, only the grass-legume mixtures transition easily into pasture. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hone your management skills at Tenn. Browsing Academy May 8-9

The sixth Tennessee Browsing Academy is being hosted by Tennessee State University in its quest to offer advanced in-formation on the enhancement of lands. This educational, hands-on two-day seminar will be held May 8-9 at the Middle Tennessee Research & Education Center in Spring Hill, Tenn.

The program is based on the successful California Browsing Academy that has been taught for the past 14 years as a partnership of Tennessee goat specialist An Peischel and Roger Ingram, Extension Livestock Specialist for Placer and Nevada counties out of Auburn, Calif.

Throughout the two days, attendees will be conducting vegetative site analysis, before and after photo monitoring, cutting fence lines, erecting portable solar powered fences, body condition scoring of goats, FAMACHA training, fecal analysis and spending time in the area with the goats monitoring plant species browsed and plant part selected. 

There will be a lot of hands-on, outside activities. Kiko/Spanish meat goats will be used that are presently enhancing land in Tennessee; the basis for contracting business discussions. 
NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) will be in attendance to discuss programs available to producers as they relate to goat production and vegetation utilization. The Tennessee Farmers Cooperative will discuss in detail their forage-master goat mineral (#96216) and sheep mineral (#96297). 

Registration is $150 (check written to: University of Tennessee), includes lunches, breaks, manuals, CDs, and DVDs. Please mail the check to: Tennessee State University, attn: An Peischel, Cooperative Extension, 3500 J.A. Merritt Blvd., Box 9635, Nashville TN 37209-1561. 

For more information, call 615-963-5539 (CDT) or e-mail An Peischel  at 

The seminar is sponsored by Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension Program, University of Tennessee Extension and Tennessee Department of Agriculture.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Youth livestock exhibitors can win a set of scales

Digi-Star contest runs May 1-May 30 

Fort Atkinson, Wis. [April 30, 2015] – The 2015, Be a Digi-Star Champion Contest runs May 1- May 30. Youth livestock exhibitors are eligible to enter by posting a picture of their 2015 livestock project to Digi-Star's Facebook page,  The photo that receives the most votes will win their choice of an Alleyway or Wrangler Jr. Livestock scale, or a StockWeigh 300 indicator.

The 2014, winning photo of Drake and Alyssa Hoyt and their market lambs received more than 1,200 likes. They chose a Wrangler Jr. Livestock scale with a StockWeigh 300 indicator as their prize.

"It is awesome! So far we've weighed six pigs, three sheep, three dogs and all the kids. It transports easily in the back of my pick up and it's nice it only needs 2AA batteries to operate," says Justin Hoyt, Drake and Alyssa's dad.

“Digi-Star has deep roots in agriculture and the Be a Digi-Star Champion Contest is just one of the ways we can share our passion with the next generation,” says Nicole Turner, Digi-Star animal products manager.

Recognizing that access to a scale often limits this key measurement process, Digi-Star developed the Be a Digi-Star Champion Contest in 2013. The winner will be the exhibitor whose picture receives the most Facebook votes by 5:00p.m, May 30, 2015. After the contest ends, anyone that entered will receive a special discount code for Digi-Star's online store. The contest is open to all youth under 21 exhibiting livestock during the 2015 show season.

In an ongoing effort to support youth livestock education, Digi-Star also offers specific discounts to Vo-Ag instructors for livestock scale systems purchased online at Instructors simply need to call 800-225-7695 and request the Vo-Ag coupon codeFor more information call (920) 563-1400 or email:

Digi-Star LLC (, a Topcon Positioning Group company, is headquartered in Fort Atkinson, Wis., with additional facilities and businesses in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. Digi-Star LLC is a global supplier of electronic sensing equipment, precision sensors, displays and software used by farmers and other equipment operators to precisely measure and analyze valuable data from critical farming processes. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Arkansas Extension Service to partner with USDA for grant writing workshops in support of local food producers

LITTLE ROCK — Trainers with the Cooperative Extension Service will be conducting a series of grant-writing workshops around Arkansas to help potential applicants navigate the federal grant application program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.

The program is being offered through Cooperative Extension Service offices in every state. In Arkansas, state trainers Stacey McCullough, director of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Public Policy Center, and Iris Crosby, an extension associate with University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, will lead five workshops in April.

Cooperative Extension Service offices in Hempstead, Craighead, Washington, Lee and Jefferson counties are partnering with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and National Institute for Food and Agriculture to conduct five workshops in April. This effort is known as the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance (AMSTA) Project.

The current schedule of workshops includes:

April 13: Hope. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, 2500 S. Main St. The workshop will be held in Hempstead Hall. Lunch will be included.

Register at:  

April 14: Jonesboro. 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. at the Craighead County Cooperative Extension Service Office, located at 611 E. Washington Ave., Ste. A.

Register at:  

April 16: Fayetteville. 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. in the University of Arkansas Food and Science Dept., rooms D1 and D2, at 2650 N. Young Ave.

Register at:  

Also on April 16: Marianna. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the UAPB Agri Demonstration & Outreach Center at 330 Lee County Rd. 407. Lunch will be provided.

To register, contact Iris Crosby at or by calling (870)2953199.

April 28: Pine Bluff. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Campus, in the auditorium of the 1890 Extension Building. Lunch will be provided.

To register, contact Iris Crosby at or by calling (870)2953199.

Agricultural Marketing Service administrator Anne Alonzo said the programs are key components of the USDA’s efforts to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems.

“The grant workshops will ensure that more communities and businesses across the country can participate in the competitive grant process with proposals that create real economic opportunities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food,” Alonzo said.

“These interactive workshops will help participants think through development of their project ideas and incorporate successful writing strategies into their grant proposals,” McCullough said.

With $30 million authorized annually by the 2014 Farm Bill through fiscal year 2018, AMS's Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program awards competitive grants to develop new local and regional markets. The Farmers Market Promotion Program supports farmers markets and other direct producer-to-consumer activities, while the Local Food Promotion Program supports enterprises that aggregate, store, distribute and process local and regional food.

These investments are part of USDA's commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods. USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates USDA's support for local and regional food systems. Projects aligned with these efforts can be found on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. For more information on AMS visit, and for more on NIFA visit

For further information on upcoming workshops, contact Stacey McCullough at or by calling (501)-671-2078; or Iris Crosby at or by calling (870)2953199.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

# # #

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sustainable agriculture tutorials available

Forward this message to a friend.

Whether you’re just considering getting into sustainable agriculture or are looking for help with specific issues affecting your operation, ATTRA’s expert staff, publications, databases, and other resources have been a go-to source of information for more than 25 years.
And ATTRA is now offering two new additions to the series of possibly its most comprehensive resource – sustainable agriculture tutorials.
The free, self-guided tutorials are more than just online talks. They contain multiple lessons with ATTRA specialists and other well-known experts in sustainable agriculture. They’re designed so you can delve deeply into the subject while working at your own pace and include calculators, worksheets, resource lists, and other downloadable tools.
And as further encouragement, the tutorials include “case study” conversations with successful producers who know what it takes to make a go of farming.
The tutorials are available on the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA website at
The two new tutorials are geared toward current producers:
Scaling Up for Regional Markets 
There are many risks and challenges associated in scaling up, especially as a farmer prepares to gain access in to the wholesale market. This tutorial provides lessons and information for farmers who have success in smaller and more direct marketing channels and who are interested in expanding their operations to meet a growing demand for local food.
Pest Management
This tutorial focuses on giving you tools to implement ecologically-based pest management strategies. The five lessons in this tutorial provide information on what ecological pest management is, how to get started, how to implement preventive strategies, biological controls, and how to use NCAT and ATTRA resources. There are also resources to help you develop your own ecological pest management strategy for your farm.
Other ATTRA tutorials will help participants in developing a business plan for their farm.
Farm Business Planning and Marketing for Beginners
Are you a beginning farmer? Do you want to expand your markets? Do you want to add sheep, goats, or poultry to your operation? This "beginner" online course will help you develop a basic business and marketing plan for your operation, and provide you with information and worksheets to help you meet your farm goals. There's lots of information about small livestock production, too. The resource provides information in visual and audio formats.
Most of the information in this tutorial is available in English and Spanish
Getting Started in Farming: An Introduction to Farm Business Planning
If you are thinking about farming as a career you've come to the right place. The eight lessons in this course will guide you through the process of imagining and planning a successful farming enterprise. You'll also hear from several farmers who have made their dreams a reality.
Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. In partnership with businesses, organizations, individuals and agricultural producers, NCAT is working to advance solutions that will ensure the next generation inherits a world that has clean air and water, energy production that is efficient and renewable, and healthy foods grown with sustainable practices. More information about its programs and services is available at or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.
Follow NCAT on Facebook Follow NCAT on Twitter Follow NCAT on LinkedIn
Copyright © 2014
The National Center for Appropriate Technology

NCAT Headquarters mailing address:
P.O. Box 3838
Butte, MT 59702

Please consider a donation to NCAT. Your support helps NCAT promote sustainable solutions.

Become an E-news Subscriber
Pass it on!
If you know someone who may be interested in receiving this email, please forward it to a friend.

Helping people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today is National Agriculture Day!

National Agriculture Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture! A good place to get involved in the celebration of food, farming and family is

Agrilicious connects consumers with over 130,000 farms, food hubs, CSA’s and farmers' markets throughout the U.S. Agrilicious is the first of its kind national online resource and marketplace for All Things Local Food and Handmade Goods.

Agrilicious is at the heart of the food movement providing an exciting way to participate in the local food experience while expanding the family-and-farmer connection. Agrilicious has become the go-to source for all things local food. Follow on Twitter @AgriliciousSPC.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Missouri workshops target toxic fescue

(Editor’s Note: This article relates to cattle production, but fescue toxicity also affects goat production. Converting pastures to toxin-free fescue would benefit goat producers as well as cattlemen.)

Justin Sexten, University of Missouri beef nutritionist, sees a way to protect fragile land and make profits with forages. He knows better grass provides better cow nutrition. Sexten is part of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, which conducts schools on converting pastures of toxic Kentucky 31 fescue into toxin-free novel endophyte fescue. Five new varieties are available for farmers.

“CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) ground that was planted to crops when grain prices shot up may be ready to reseed to grass,” Sexten says. “Cropping a couple of years eradicates toxic K-31.”

Grazing new novel-endophyte fescue varieties will improve productivity, Sexten says. The toxic endophyte cuts calf gains, reduces cow’s milk and hurts conception rates. Novel-endophyte fescues avoid those problems.

There is an added advantage. Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied to the new varieties to produce more pounds of grass per acre. With the old fescue, adding nitrogen increased toxin levels. That defeated the advantage of added pounds of grass.

Four fescue schools held across Missouri will teach the steps in killing old fescue and planting new. Management is needed in both steps: eradicating and reseeding. If K-31 plants and their seeds in the soil are not killed, toxic fescue will return and crowd out new seedlings. The new grass must be protected with careful grazing.

Economic outlook favors conversion. With current high prices for beef calves, and a strong outlook, there should be quicker payback for pasture conversion.
Staff at the fescue schools will urge starting small on best pastureland and increasing the renovations year by year.

The schools and local contacts for registration are:
• March 31, Mount Vernon; MU Southwest Research Center. Carla Rathmann, 417-466-2148.
• April 1, Cook Station; MU Wurdack Research Center. Will McClain, 573-775-2135.
• April 2, Columbia; MU Beef Research and Teaching Farm on Highway 63 South. Lena Johnson, 573-882-7327.
• April 3, Linneus; MU Forage Systems Research Center. Tamie Carr, 660-895-5121.

Space is limited at each school. The research centers are part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The Alliance for Grassland Renewal brings together all players in the renewal process, Sexten says. That includes MU research and extension, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, seed companies, fescue testing labs, nonprofits and farmers.

“All work together now,” Sexten says. “Land taken out of CRP and put in crops is an ideal place to start raising new fescues,” he says. “That land was not top-grade crop ground when it was enrolled in CRP. Now it can be returned to grass to slow soil erosion. At the same time it can be a profit center on the farm.”

However, current toxic K-31 pastures can be no-tilled into crops. Corn and soybeans can be used as smother crops in the MU-perfected “spray, smother, spray” fescue eradication. Cropping helps pay the cost of pasture reseeding. Otherwise, the smother crop can be an annual grass used for beef forage.

See school registration details at