The Virginia Forage and Grassland Council and Virginia Cooperative Extension will host the 2015 Winter Forage Conferences in four locations Jan. 20 through 23.

This year’s conferences will provide participants with information and examples of how healthy soils, forages, and ruminants improve human health and well-being. Speakers will illustrate the role of healthy soils as the foundation for a vibrant forage system that supports a ruminant livestock herd supplying high-quality proteins for human nutrition and health.

The keynote speaker will be Peter Ballerstedt, the forage product manager at Barenbrug USA. 

Ballerstedt writes a blog focused on diet, health, and human nutrition called “Grass Based Health.” His areas of expertise include forage production, utilization, and forage-based livestock production systems and their role in human nutrition. 

In his morning presentation, he will discuss “Beef: The REAL Health Food.” After lunch, he will shed light on the relationship between soils and grazing animals in his presentation, “Red Meat Is Green.”

Participants will also hear from Adele Hite, a registered dietician who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in nutrition epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. She will provide insights into the national nutritional policy environment and discuss “Policy Does Not Equal Science: Development of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.”

Johnny Rogers of Rogers Cattle Company, Roxboro, North Carolina, will discuss his experience managing soil, forages, and animals on the farm he manages with his wife, Sharon. His presentation is “A Systems Approach to Building Soil Health and Producing a Profitable Livestock Product.”

Local livestock producers involved in the Regional Conservation Innovation Grant, in cooperation with VFGC, VCE, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will share the grazing strategies they used to improve the soil health on their farms.

The daylong conference will be repeated at four locations:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 20, at the Weyers Cave Community Center.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the Wytheville Meeting Center.
  • Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Dominion Agricultural Complex in Chatham.
  • Friday, Jan. 23, at the Gordonsville Volunteer Fire Company Hall.

The conferences will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Visit the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council website for details and registration information. The $35 early registration fee must be postmarked by Jan. 3, 2015. 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.