The forage industry is looking to increase productivity on Canada’s forage acres by showcasing the adoption of high-performance production systems.
“If every pasture, piece of pasture or piece of native rangeland increased its productivity by 15 per cent with good forage management, we could make some massive impacts environmentally and economically,” said Cedric McLeod, executive director of the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA).
The CFGA held its national conference on Nov. 14 and 15 in Winnipeg, where attendees heard from a variety of speakers on topics ranging from soil nutrient management and conservation, to export industry development, environmental benefits of grass on the landscape and the economics of forage production.
“With this conference we really wanted to expose the extension and retail network to core science and give them the opportunities to extend that information to the ground level with the intent of growing the adoption of high-performance forage production systems,” McLeod said.
With an industry that is spread across 70 million acres in Canada, McLeod says the CFGA has taken the approach of attracting participants who connect with producers in order to better spread the latest sector information.
“When you are touching this many acres, it takes a lot of infrastructure to get information down to the ground level, and what we are trying to do is provide a forum where we can bring together the seed sector, machinery companies, fertilizer providers, ag retail and then link them with our provincial organizations, so that we can move the sector forward as a whole.”
Throughout the program, CFGA concentrated on various aspects of high-performance grazing and forage management with presenters such as Mitchell Timmerman from Manitoba Agriculture, Robert Berthiaume from Valacta, Blake Vince, Canadian Nuffield Scholar and Dimple Roy from the Institute for Sustainable Development.
“We have taken a hard look at the canola example. In canola, they have really pushed the overall yield across Western Canada, because they have been able to adopt more intensive management practices. We are looking at the opportunities to do the same,” McLeod said. “So, small investments in management, pushing 10, 15, 20 per cent greater output from an existing forage acre. Those are the kind of stories we are trying to highlight.”
In looking at recent applied research data, McLeod says a 10 to 20 per cent increase is certainly an obtainable goal.
“I absolutely think the 10 to 20 per cent increase in productivity is feasible. The idea is six fences and one water bowl. So, taking one continuously grazed pasture, making it seven small paddocks and over the next couple of years, you are going to see that increase,” McLeod said. “Those who have moved into rotational grazing systems, and are doing that intensively, are seeing 25 to 30 per cent increases in pasture productivity. That is more than double the target. These incremental investments will very quickly take us to 15 per cent and beyond.”