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Forum Fridays Focus on Quality Forage for Livestock

Forage crops and pastures provide feed for grazing livestock. Quality forage is necessary to provide nutrients in rations to keep livestock healthy and productive. Purdue Extension created an 11-session virtual series, Forage Forum Fridays, about seed industry, hay evaluations, private applicator recertification program (PARP) credits, marketing and purchasing hay, sorghum genetics, fertilizer issues, forage focused leasing, forage toolkit, farming with a four-wheeler, equipment maintenance, and livestock production labeling. Series topics were presented weekly over three months.

Program participants were those growing forages, grazing forages, working in the forage industry, Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and the general public. There were 218 registered from 19 states, three Canadian provinces, and Germany. Almost two-thirds (69%) of registrants reported currently managing forages, ranging from less than 5 acres to over 100 acres. A total of 192 participants attended the sessions via Zoom. Recordings were transcribed, and closed-caption versions were uploaded to YouTube. Since the postings, 415 people have watched the recordings. For participating in the series, nine high school agriculture teachers received 11 Indiana Department of Education Professional Growth Points, and 177 attendees received PARP credits.

Prior to the forage seed presentation, survey respondents (n=21) reported they planned to plant new perennial forages in the upcoming year (76%). But after the presentation, 10 of those respondents reported planning to make adjustments to their forage field planting or management for the upcoming year. For post-survey respondents (n=21), as a result of the hay evaluation presentation, all (100%) reported a better understanding of how to read a hay test, and the majority (88%) had a better understanding of both how hay analysis was performed, and how to evaluate livestock rations based on forage test results.

As a result of the marketing and purchasing hay presentation, all 29 survey respondents were more comfortable with what to look for when buying and selling hay, and more than half (60%) reported both that they learned what resources to use when trying to decide on what hay to purchase or sell, and that they felt more confident in their ability to choose a person to purchase hay from. Before the sorghum genetics presentation, survey respondents (n=29) knew “some” or “nothing at all” about sorghum and its genetics (90%). Afterward, 100% reported they knew “some” or “a lot” about sorghum genetics. After the Fertilizer presentation, survey respondents (n=29) reported they knew the pH of their soils (87.5%), had performed soil tests on their forage fields within the last three years (75%), had used the tri-state fertilizer recommendations (63%), and had applied sulfur to their forage crops (63%).

As a result of the forage focused leasing presentation, all respondents (n=29) indicated they had a much better understanding of the value of pastures and hay fields when renting, and how to create leases for hay fields or pastures. For the forage toolkit presentation, of the 25 survey respondents, more than half (55%) reported they had at least one of the tools mentioned, but all reported planning to add at least one more tool to their toolkit. Most mentioned were forage tools (grazing/yard stick, rising plate meter, hay probe, and waterproof notebook), grazing equipment (quick-coupler water system, water tank sled, game camera, round bale unroller), and fencing tools (remote fault finder, fencing reel, solar energizer, different type of poly fence).

As a result of the farming with a four-wheeler presentation, survey respondents (n=25) reported increased interest in equipment (subcompact tractors, compact tractors, and skid steers) and implements (box blades, spreaders, and post hole diggers). Most (83%) reported they plan to implement at least one practice from this presentation for raising livestock on smaller acres. Because of the forage equipment maintenance presentation, 86% of the 25 survey respondents reported they were planning to adjust their equipment maintenance routine. Most reported plans were for mower maintenance (especially mower knives) and making sure extra repair parts are on hand. After the livestock production labeling presentation, all 25 post-survey respondents reported a much-improved understanding of product labels. Purdue Extension’s Forage Forum Fridays ( channel/UCFuklSCBh7FsZF3qV3BgCQQ) contributes to knowledge and practices of farmers and ranchers for producing quality forages for livestock.

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