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New Ranchers’ Forum targets wider audience

It’s time to move beyond just moving cattle, say organizers.

The Manitoba Forage Council’s annual Grazing School, an event that in years past showcased the latest advances in pasture and forage production, has been renamed Ranchers’ Forum to reflect a new focus aimed at incorporating more aspects of livestock production.

“Basically, we’re looking at a new direction,” said event chair and MAFRI forage production specialist Pam Iwanchysko.

“The Ranchers’ Forum encompasses a lot more topics and aspects of agriculture, not just forages and pasture grazing management.”

The newly revamped event this year, scheduled for Nov. 27-28 at Brandon’s Victoria Inn, will feature speakers covering subjects such as marketing, animal rights, herd health, feedlot topics, goat and sheep production, and even social media development.

Soil and pasture management, as well as innovative grazing systems, will still figure prominently in the event, said Iwanchysko, but the redesign is aimed at casting a wider net of topics in order to make the event more attractive for a larger livestock industry audience.

Jim Lintott, MFC chair, said that changes to the event reflect the changing face of the livestock industry, as well as new circumstances faced by the organization.

The MFC formerly supported itself by administering and managing research grants, he said.

However, now that the federal and provincial governments have cut back on that kind of programming, the council has been forced to look further afield for support.

“We’re having to reassess who and what we are,” said Lintott.

The economics of the cattle business have changed since the grazing school began about a dozen years ago, he added, due to the rising cost of energy and grain.

“Those two things are really going to challenge the livestock and forage industry to come up with techniques of producing and being profitable,” he said, adding that grass is a very high user of nitrogen and phosphorus.

In the future, it might be necessary to “bring forward” some of the older techniques that predate modern, intensive farming methods — particularly the use of perennial forages such as peas, soybeans, alfalfa and sweet clover to fix nitrogen and improve the soil.

“I think there’s a lot of room to marry the best of the traditional and organic methods to come up with a very cost-effective and highly productive system,” said Lintott. “The value of that knowledge is going up every time the price of fertilizer goes up.”

There’s no way to grow phosphorus, he said, adding that he believes the use of livestock to capture and conserve that nutrient in manure on a commercial scale will inevitably attract more attention in the coming years.

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