If you want to talk about grasslands and forage, go to where the action is — and lately a lot of that action is in Manitoba.
In the eyes of the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA), Manitoba has been a standout in its efforts towards forage research and the ideal place to hold this year’s national conference.
“We have been working very closely with the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) on developing a number of environmental scan type projects, and it has a lot of things happening provincially on the environmental benefits side of the forage sector. We thought it was a really good opportunity to partner up to highlight activities happening both nationally and provincially,” said Cedric MacLeod, executive director of the CFGA.
CFGA will hold its seventh annual national conference, themed “Green and Grass in 2016,” in Winnipeg November 15 to 17.
According to MacLeod, the Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative (MBFI) research farm, which is located just north of Brandon, was another reason the CFGA was drawn to Manitoba as its host.
“MBFI has really been gaining strength and it is a novel public-private partnership type of applied research model. We feel quite strongly in the model and that it may be a good example for other provinces. We wanted to have a chance to tour that facility and highlight that on the agenda as well,” MacLeod said. “There are certainly other initiatives similar to MBFI on the go across the country but I think at this point, MBFI is the shining example in Canada.”
Attendees will have a chance to tour the MBFI facility during the conference pre-tour, as well as hear from representative, Glenn Friesen from Manitoba Agriculture, during the conference in a session entitled, “Driving Beef and Forage Innovation Right Here at Home.”
At the conference, CFGA also aims to show off the forage sector’s environmental benefits and economical value.
“We really want the attendees to stop for a moment and reflect on the sheer size and value of the sector,” MacLeod said. “We are talking about 70 million acres of crop ground in Canada being dedicated to forages with a $5.09-billion farm gate value, second only to canola and wheat. That is really what we are trying to show off and make sure that forage gets its day in the sun.”
MacLeod says that in many cases the forage sector is undervalued in the Canadian agriculture system because it is largely a supplier industry to the livestock sectors.
“The dairy and beef sectors command a fairly large swath in Canadian agriculture and as a supplier we sometimes accept second fiddle, but we need to make sure we express our value. This is 70 million acres. It is huge and the natural capital that the forage sector provides is immense.”
The conference will include a lineup of speakers from across North America discussing current management practices, export industry development and the environmental value brought to the Canadian economy by the sector.
“We have got a pretty clear focus on the environmental benefits that the sector is bringing, in terms of the carbon storage value, the water filtration and nutrient management, and I think that is something we will be focusing on in the coming years,” MacLeod said.
Event speakers will include Dimple Roy, director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Trevor Herriot, writer and forage advocate and Douglas Yungblut, an agriculture consultant who will discuss the economics of beef cow grazing versus cash cropping.