The expansion of the grass-fed livestock market has more producers considering pasture-based livestock systems. That leaves both new and established beef cattle producers with a lot of questions. Jason Rowntree has answers, and he'll share them during a demonstration at the Michigan Ag Expo, which takes place July 19–21 at Michigan State University. Rowntree, an MSU Extension specialist and assistant professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Animal Science, combines research and practical knowledge to provide information about effective grazing management strategies that will work on any size operation.
Rowntree will present "Chew on This: Grazing Management Strategies for Beef Cattle Operations" at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 19. The session will be located in the "Livestock Central" area of the Ag Expo grounds, directly west of the main entrance.
"Properly utilizing forages is one of the most important things we can do in cow-calf operations," said Rowntree, who has researched this subject thanks to an appointment in AgBioResearch at MSU. "Specifically, the decisions we make at the farm can dramatically help lower costs and, concurrently, we can increase soil quality with minimal inputs through proper management."
During the session, Rowntree will bring together multiple aspects of grazing, including utilizing forages, improving soil quality and properly managing pastures to reduce the need for inputs like fertilizer and fuel. He will also highlight research being done at the Lake City Experiment Station.
"We're not going to change everything overnight as it relates to grazing," Rowntree admitted. "What I hope to do during Ag Expo, though, is start getting people to think about it. What are the costs of my grazing operation? How is my fencing and water system set up? Are there things that I can do better that will help me have lower costs and hopefully be more profitable? Those are the types of questions I hope people will start asking."
By properly managing their pastures, producers can also work to improve water quality, an important program with the MSU Extension "I Know MI Numbers" initiative.
"When pastures aren't properly managed, overgrazing can leave bare ground exposed, which increases the chance of soil and nutrient runoff," Rowntree explained. "Through our session at Ag Expo, producers will learn how they can better manage those pastures, leaving more plant matter on the surface and root mass underground. Both of these will hold soil and nutrients in place while also allowing for greater moisture capture and retention."
The 2011 Michigan Ag Expo will bring together representatives from Michigan's $71.3 billion agricultural industry – both academic and commercial – for three days of educational session, demonstrations and other activities. The MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources sponsors Ag Expo, the largest outdoor farm show in the state.
For more information on grazing or this Ag Expo session, contact Rowntree at 517-974-9539. Ag Expo runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 19 and 20, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 21. Admission to the grounds and parking at Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road are free. For more information, visit www.agexpo.msu.edu.