Alabama Grazing School Clinics
The Alabama Grazing School one-day clinics are offered to livestock owners interested in gaining the latest information and instruction on grazing management. The school offers classroom instruction, field instruction, and demonstrations, along with good food and fellowship with fellow livestock owners.
Mark Your Calendars - Grazing Schools
Alabama has as much or more potential for production of forage-consuming livestock as any state in the United States! There are a number of reasons why this is true. First, we have a great climate for growing forage--lots of sunshine, warm temperatures throughout much of the year, and (relative to many areas) abundant rainfall.
Second, we have plenty of land to devote to growing forage crops for livestock. Though we have a diversity of soils, there is hardly any land in the state which cannot be used for growing a forage crop of one type or another if the landowner so desires. In addition, neither urban encroachment nor competition for land by row crops limit forage/livestock production in Alabama nearly to the extent they do in many other states.
Third, we have some other unique advantages which include: one of the largest and most active cattlemen's associations in the world; ready availability in many areas of broiler litter and other organic materials which can be used to lower forage fertilization costs; and both a tradition of forage/livestock production and much expertise in this area among the rural population. Consequently, few, if any, states are as superbly positioned to be a leader in forage/livestock production.
Why Have a Grazing School?
Though many different educational programs pertaining to forage/livestock production have been conducted in Alabama, grazing management has received relatively little attention. Perhaps this is partly because the relative ease of growing forage in Alabama has dampened enthusiasm for improving utilization. Also, to many producers the cost, both in terms of dollars and effort, may have seemed questionable relative to the benefits.
However, things have changed. As we head into a new millennium, there are several reasons why we believe it makes sense to offer a school in Alabama which focuses on grazing management at this particular time. These include the following.
New Products - In recent years, many new products (especially related to electric fencing and supplying water for livestock) have become commercially available. This technology has greatly increased the economic feasibility and ease of using more sophisticated grazing management techniques.
Economic Pressures - As a result of a combination of rising input costs and inadequate or erratic prices for livestock and livestock products, it seems to be increasingly difficult to squeeze a profit from a livestock enterprise. Thus, many producers see a need to increase efficiency. Because on the one hand, pastures provide most of the nutrition for livestock, and on the other hand, costs associated with forages typically are responsible for over half the cost of livestock production, grazing management is a good place to start.
Environmental Concerns - There is now more concern about the environment, and for good reason. With each passing year it becomes increasingly clear that we must take more steps to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and minimize or eliminate other harmful effects. Because grazing lands occupy such a large area, how they are managed has an important impact on the well-being of the environment.
Increased Complexity - Livestock producers have more management options and there is more to know than was the case a few years ago. For example, there are more breeds of cattle and other livestock, more species and varieties of forage crops available, and more products which can impact on the productivity of forage crops and livestock. In many cases, grazing management can interact in important ways with other influences within the soil/forage crop/grazing animal complex.
Increased Interest - A final reason for initiating an Alabama Grazing School at this particular time has to do with timing. For various reasons, including the four points just stated, there is more interest in grazing management in Alabama and across the nation than there has ever been before. Thus, the timing has never been better for focusing on this important area.
At the outset of any activity it is always a good idea to have a clear concept as to what the activity is designed to accomplish. As a prelude to reading the course objective for the Alabama Grazing School, consider that in the booklet Terminology for Grazing Lands and Grazing Animals (which has been endorsed by over 10 professional or commodity groups and governmental agencies associated with grazing lands and/or involved with the study of grazing land/grazing animal relationships) the following definition is provided.
Grazing management - The manipulation of animal grazing in pursuit of a defined objective (or objectives).
Given that definition, three very logical and practical questions which might come to mind are: (1) what might be a good objective or objectives to have when pasturing livestock?; (2) exactly what factors can be manipulated order to accomplish such objectives?; and (3) how can a person go about manipulating these factors?
In essence, the overall objective of the Alabama Grazing School is to provide participants with answers to all three of these questions. The more insight and knowledge a producer has regarding his (or her) management options and the results that exercising some combination of those options will likely have, the better positioned he will be to accomplish what he wants to accomplish with his livestock program.
Putting It All In Perspective
Grazing management is a complex topic. Even people who have many years of experience and who are widely regarded as experts readily admit that they learn more each year. Furthermore, there is some confusion created by various overlapping or contradictory terms commonly used in the grazing management area, and sometimes by differing philosophies of people who use these terms.
However, make no mistake about it, grazing management has important impacts on many different aspects of forage/livestock production. To be unaware of, or to ignore, these impacts will result in many lost opportunities.
Finally, it is important to remember that every farm is unique. Each one has a particular combination of soils, topography, resources, and objectives. Consequently, there is no single grazing management program or prescription which will be right for everyone.
In order to obtain outstanding performance from animals on pasture, a livestock producer must continually make decisions regarding what grazing management approaches he wants to take, given his particular situation at that particular time. We hope the Alabama Grazing School will help make such decisions easier for you (or persons with whom you work) in the future.
For more information, contact:
Eddie Jolley, Conservation Agronomist
P.O. Box 311
Auburn, Alabama 36830