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Summary

To educate livestock and hay producers in Northwest Georgia in best management practices for forage production, weed control and fertility in pastures and hayfields through an educational workshop series.

Situation

In Northwest Georgia, beef, horses and hay production make up a large portion of the agriculture industry. Changes in climate such as very wet springs and droughty summers has reduced forage stands and increased weed populations while fuel and fertilizer costs have also influenced producer profits.

Response

Murray Count Extension collaborated with the UGA Extension Forage team to host a UGA Grass Master’s program for the northwest Georgia region. The class format was offered as a seven-week series, each evening program having a different forage focus. Program topics included: Introduction to Forages, Fertilization of Perennial Grasses, Hay Production and Management, Understanding Forage Quality, Pest Management Strategies, Grazing Management and Planning, and, lastly, Improving Soil Health and NRCS Programs. Pesticide continuing education credits were offered for the Pest Management Strategies portion of the series.

Impact

Twenty producers from nine counties (Bartow, Catoosa, Cherokee, Floyd, Gordon, Murray, Polk, Walker and Whitfield) attended the Grass Masters series. Program evaluations were provided at the end of each of seven modules and then an additional 6-month post-program survey was sent by Qualtrics. Sixteen evaluations were returned after Module 1, Introduction to Forages. 69% said the information was new to them but they understood the idea, 14% said it was over their head and 17% said they knew it already. 87% said their knowledge improved, as well as their interest and confidence, as a result of this topic. When asked what they would do differently as a result of Module 1, they said, “better management of rotational grazing,” track days and impact as horses graze paddocks,” “rotational grazing and grass/legume mixtures.” Seventeen evaluations were returned after Module 2, Fertilization. 67% said the information was new to them, 10% said it was over their head and 23% said it was too simple, they knew it already. All said that their knowledge on this topic had increased as well as interest and confidence in using these skills. When asked what they would do differently as a result of Module 1, “change fertility management,” “lime first,” “more soil test.” Suggestions to add to this topic were, “cost of poultry litter,” “use of wood ash for potassium/calcium,” “figures to show probable economic impact – gains and losses.” Suggested topics to leave off were, “use of liquid lime,” “steps to renovate pasture,” “clarification on difference between fertilizing hayfields and pasture.” Thirteen evaluations were returned after Module 3, Hay Production. 51% said the information was new but they understood the idea, 42% said it was too simple and 7% said it was over their head. Most said their knowledge, interest and confidence were only slightly improved by this workshop. When asked what they plan to do differently as a result of Module 3, “build a barn and feed in the dry,” “I actually pay to have my hay cut so I will definitely be monitoring and deciding when to cut and what time of day.” One attendee requested that presentations be provided on a flash drive instead of in a book. Eighteen evaluations were returned after Module 4, Forage Quality. 65% said the information was new to them, 26% said it was too simple. All said that their knowledge was improved by this topic and their confidence in their skills was improved too. When asked how this topic helped in their operation, what they plan to do differently, they said “timing of hay cut,” “ask hay seller about forage testing,” “test their hay,” “match forage availability,” and “manage the whole process, soil sampling forage testing, control breeding timeline and calving to match forage availability.” Twelve evaluations were returned after Module 5, Pest Management. 68% said the information was new but they understood and 28% said it was too simple. Half said they would try a few things differently and 42% said they planned to make some changes. The majority of those present said their knowledge was greatly improved but a few said there wasn’t much change. When asked what they plan to do differently in the future, they said “spray for weeds earlier,” soil test then id weeds and decide what needs to go,” “set calendar of what to spray when,” “try different types of herbicides and timing of applications.” Seventeen evaluations were returned after Module 6, Grazing Management. 10 of 17 said they might try a few things different, 7 of 17 said they definitely plan to make some changes. 59% said the information was new but they understood, 35% said they knew it already. When asked what they plan to do different, “moving watering stations so cows don’t have to travel as far and use the pasture more for grazing,” “multiple paddocks and rotations,” “use more temporary fencing,” “being more efficient in rotation schedule, incorporate legumes to prolong grazing period recovery.” When asked what ought to be added to this topic, “how different plants help one another under the soil surface,” “more extensive explanation of formulas.” Eighteen evaluations were returned after Module 7, NRCS Programs. 61% said they might try a few things differently. 66% said the information was new but they understood and 23% said they knew it already. When asked what they plan to do differently, “stop disturbing the soil, decrease tilling, increase broadcasting and overseeding,” “really intensify rotational grazing,” “having a variance of grass to have a continuous grazing season.” Topics to add were suggested, “list of plants to help mend the soil,” “what type of soil do I have?” The Grass Masters program series ended in October 2019 so a follow up survey was sent to members in July of 2020 to evaluate whether they actually made any changes and how they worked. Only half of the attendees returned their surveys. Of those ten, all said they were still satisfied by the speakers and topics of the program. They were asked to list one or more practices they learned and implemented on the farm and responses were, soil testing, rotational grazing, cross fencing, weed control, hay testing and storage, cut hay earlier in growth stage and proper fertilization practices. Everyone said they saved time, money and/or frustration as a result of what they learned.

State Issue

Sustainability, Conservation, and the Environment

Details

  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: Multi-County
  • County: Murray
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources

Author

  • Jackson, Brenda

Collaborator(s)

CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Gates, Roger N
  • Knight, Carole Hicks
  • Meeks, Charlotte Leslie Mote
  • Morgan, Steven P.
  • Tanner, Savannah Amelia

Non-CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Phillip Brown
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