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Grass-Finished Livestock will be Focus of Forage and Grassland Conferences

Farm Business Management Update, December 2005/January 2006

By Lori Greiner (, Communications Manager of University Relations, and Casey Marsteller, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Virginia, December 12, 2005 -- "From the Farm Gate to the Dinner Plate" is the theme for two conferences to be held in January for livestock and forage producers and sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Forage and Grassland Council.

Nationally recognized speakers will help producers learn about how to utilize forage systems to grass finish animals. The conferences will be held January 25 at the Reva Fire Department (just west of Culpeper) and January 26 at Ever's Restaurant in Harrisonburg. Registration for both conferences will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m.

Ted Gentry, guitarist with "Alabama," will share many aspects of his farming operation during the conference. Gentry has returned home to his small cotton farm in Northeast Alabama, where he is currently working on sustainability in his operation. In attempts to create maximum profitability per acre, Gentry instituted a planned cross breeding system to form a composite breed, "South Poll," for his grass-based cattle operation. He does direct marketing through his own meat company, Burt's Beef, and to retail stores. Currently, Gentry is working to tie together genetics, management, and public education in the grass-fed industry.

Richard Watson, assistant professor of agronomy at Mississippi State University, will share information on forage development and management systems to meet the demands for pasture-finished beef. He will also discuss the critical issues producers must address in developing a forage management plan to make efficient use of pastures and meet consumers' preferences.

Sustainable Genetics, LLC co-founder Bill Hodge will speak about what genetics considerations are important for the grass-finished producers and how matching the right grass with the right cattle genetics can deliver a product consumers want. For the past 20 years, he has served in the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, the last five of which have been in Carroll County, Georgia. He is vice president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and the chairman of the chamber's Agri-Business Committee.

Susan Duckett, associate professor in animal and dairy science at Clemson University, will share what she has learned about forage-finished beef, including consumer preferences, quality, and palatability. Duckett has been working with Virginia Tech, University of Georgia, and West Virginia University researchers in developing innovative concepts and practices to enhance the efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of grass-fed beef production systems in Appalachia. Early registration is $25 for Virginia Forage and Grassland Council members and $50 for nonmembers. The deadline for early registration is January 17. After January 17, registration will be $40 for members and $65 for non-members. The non-member registration fee includes a one-year membership to the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council and the American Forage and Grassland Council and subscriptions to the Virginia Forager Newspaper, the Forage Leader Magazine, and the monthly e-mail publication Forage Progress.

For additional information, contact Dean Gall at or (540) 643-2592 or David Fiske at or (540) 377-2255.

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