The Virginia Forage and Grassland Council and Virginia Cooperative Extension will host the 2014 Winter Forage Conference at four locations on Jan. 27-30. 

The conference, Soil Health: The Foundation of Profitable Ruminant Livestock Production, will provide training in soil health, giving participants greater knowledge of soil’s potential as the foundation of all agriculture. This year’s keynote speaker is Joshua Dukart of Dukart Farms near Hazen, N.D. 

The family farm’s primary enterprises are cow-calf, equine, stocker, and forage crops, and it focuses on regenerative land management through enhancement of soil health. Dukart is a field representative for the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition and a member of the Burleigh County Soil Conservation District team in Bismarck. He brings a wealth of practical information to the conference from his experience making day-to-day decisions on the family farm and working with other farmers in his Soil Conservation District. 

In his morning presentation, he will discuss the key principles in managing for healthy soils and the bottom-line reasons why livestock producers should care. Later, Dukart will explain the relationships between soils and the grazing animals that depend daily on the products of healthy soils in a presentation titled, “Grazing With Purpose: It’s More Than Just Rotational Grazing.

Participants will also hear from Jennifer Moore-Kucera, assistant professor of soil and environmental microbiology at Texas Tech University, who will present practical findings about ongoing research projects that focus on soil microbes and soil health in integrated crop-livestock systems in the Southern High Plains region.

Invited back is Ed Rayburn, West Virginia University Extension forage specialist. His presentation, “Introduction to Pasture Ecology,” will explain what lives in our soil and what helps these organisms thrive.

The conference will again feature local livestock producers at each workshop site to discuss “Using Grazing Strategies to Improve Soil Health on my Farm.” Each of these producers will provide conference participants with real insight into the challenges and benefits of improving soil health in their grazing systems.

The daylong conference will be held at four Virginia locations:

  • Monday, Jan. 27, in Blackstone, at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center
  • Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Wytheville, at the Wytheville Meeting Center
  • Wednesday, Jan. 29, in Weyers Cave, at the Weyers Cave Community Center
  • Thursday, Jan. 30, in Brandy Station, at the Brandy Station Fire Department

The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information or to register for the conference, contact Margaret Kenny or call 434-292-5331. The $35 early registration fee must be postmarked by Jan. 3, 2014. After Jan. 3, the registration fee is $50 per person. This year’s conference is funded in part by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Innovation Grant from the National Resources Conservation Service in Virginia.

Please visit the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council website for additional details and registration information.