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MBFI collaboration draws accolades from visiting graziers

Tour participants said the model performs extension, something Canada has begun to fall behind on

Around 40 delegates to the Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association annual conference, recently held in Winnipeg, arrived a day early to get a look at how Manitoba does it.

They enjoyed unseasonably warm and sunny weather as they took a close-up look at the action at the Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative (MBFI) operations around Brandon.

In between enjoying the weather though, attendees said the takeaway from the day was the great potential the three MBFI research demonstration locations have on local, regional, national and international levels.

“It was an excellent day,” said Ray Robertson, CFGA chair and a custom grazing producer from Markdale, Ont., where he and wife Evelyn farm. “It’s a great facility and tremendous opportunity for everyone in the beef and forage industry to use the MBFI research and extension efforts to better our industry.”

Located at three sites: Brookdale, First Street and Johnson Pasture, all near Brandon, the MBFI is an industry-led centre of agricultural innovation engaging in science-based research to benefit valuable ecosystems, improve producer profitability and build social awareness around the beef and forage industry.

“MBFI is a collaboration between Manitoba Agriculture, Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association, and Ducks Unlimited Canada with direction from stakeholders collaborating for the advancement of the industry,” said Glenn Friesen, Manitoba Agriculture’s project lead on the MBFI. “As a group, we want producers, industry and stakeholders aware of our MBFI programs and potential and the opportunity to broadcast this to Canada’s forage and grassland leaders as part of the CFGA 2016 conference in Winnipeg was a great opportunity to do so.”

Most of the tour time was spent at Brookdale, where the bulk of the MBFI research is taking place, however, there were also stops at the other two sites as well. During the stops, researchers from Manitoba Agriculture and the University of Manitoba took the national audience to the heart of some of the leading-edge beef and forage research underway at the MBFI.

After hearing from research leads on soil health, leafy spurge, extended grazing, forage quality, watering systems, riparian areas, carbon sequestration and herd health, the MBFI’s focus on extension — that is communicating the results of research from researchers in ways that connect with users and stakeholders — struck a chord with Robertson.

“I heard a presentation recently where Canada was ranked No. 9 in the world in agricultural extension efforts,” he said. “Extension has kind of dropped off our national map, yet, in many ways effective extension is what Canada needs to surround our agriculture producers and land managers with so we can get back on that international stage as the global leaders.”

He added the MBFI is a big step in the direction and called for more collaboration and leadership across Canada.

Longtime CFGA board member Doug Wray, of Irricana, Alta., where he and wife Linda run a herd of 300 cows on a forage-focused ranch operation, said the enthusiasm of the researchers and the combination of youth, partner collaboration and strong research is a well-timed recipe for the rest of Canada to watch closely and learn from.

“These are bright and engaged researchers looking for solutions that should resonate with all of us who work on the land,” said Wray, who was acknowledged with the 2016 New Holland CFGA Leadership Award at the Winnipeg conference.

“The MBFI is bringing together the partnerships, the facilities, the researchers. It’s fantastic.”

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