By Doug Graves
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Producers have three opportunities this fall to learn how they can sustainably improve their pastures during the Kentucky Grazing Conference.
The offerings are Oct. 26 at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton, Oct. 27 at the Hardin County Extension office in Elizabethtown and Oct. 28 at the Clark County Extension office in Winchester. The program beings each day at 8 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment specialists will discuss several topics during the event including weather trends and their grazing impacts, weed management, getting more band from fertilizer, bale grazing, precision agriculture, designing flexible water and fencing systems and GRAZE, a program that balances available forages and livestock needs.
First at the podium and keynoting the conference will be Ed Rayburn, forage extension specialist from West Virginia University. Rayburn will remind attendees just what is living in their pastures in his talk entitled “Pasture Ecology 101.”
“Understanding pasture ecology enables us to develop management systems that achieve our goals,” Rayburn pointed out. “Plants grow and store carbohydrates based on the balance of photosynthesis and respiration which is affected by temperature, day length, solar intensity and soil moisture. We manage growth and yield by controlling the timing and intensity of livestock defoliating the canopy. Plant species differ in their tolerance to grazing based on their growth habit above and below ground. The interplay of sunlight, plants, soil and animals are the parts of pasture ecology.”
Rayburn will talk about the soil food web, including root growth, forage quality, growth under rotational grazing and competition among plants.
Greg Halich, associate extension professor in agricultural economics at University of Kentucky, will discuss the benefits and challenges associated with bale grazing. Halich, who tends to his farm located just southwest of Lexington, will instruct attendees how to get bale grazing right.
“A producer has two choices, either use commercial fertilizer or bring in fertility from hay,” Halich said. “In the short run you can get better production with commercial fertilizer, but in the long run productivity will be higher bringing in these nutrients with bale versus commercial fertility. I’m convinced that bale grazing indirectly increases the amount of fertilizer in a pasture.”
Halich said that one big advantage bale grazing has over commercial fertilizer is that the nutrients will accumulate over time. “With bale grazing you’re building up the organic matter in your soil and increasing the amount of nitrogen that’s mineralizing every year. And if you stop bale grazing you’re still going to have those benefits.”
Morgan Hayes, assistant professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at UK, will discuss how to design flexible fencing and watering systems. Chris Teutsch, forage specialist at UK’s Research and Education Center, will discuss precision agriculture.
Jimmy Henning, plant and soil sciences expert from UK, with discuss GRAZE, the program that balances forage availability and the needs of livestock. J.D. Green, extension professor at UK, will provide an integrated approach to week management in pastures.
John Grove, full professor of agronomy, plant and soil sciences at UK, will discuss fertilizer, talking about the right source, rate, timing and placement of fertilizer. Meteorologist Matthew Dixon will discuss long-term weather trends and implications for grazing operations.
Pre-registration is required to get the conference’s reduced price of $35 per person. Attendees can register at the door the day of the event, but that cost will be $50 per person. Registration for youth or students is $10.
Registration is available online at the UK Forage Extension website at https://forages.ca.uky.edu. Attendees can also get registration material at their local extension office.