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Southern Cover Crops - Grazing quotes to remember

Southern cover crops conference - a recap of day 1.

On Feb 14-15, the Southern Cover Crops Conference met at the Beautiful Renaissance hotel in Baton Rouge, LA. I was able to attend only one day, the 14th, with our LGLCI booth in the hallway of the hotel.

Multiple breakout sessions were available throughout the morning and afternoon time slots. Keynote speaker Rob Myers addressed the crowd during lunch on the 14th, with a “state of the union” inspirational speech about cover crops, and percentages of regions of the US that are using cover crops.

Mr. Myers addressed the crowd to emphasize the importance of grassroots cover crops efforts, emphasizing, “Farmer to farmer networking is essential to get more neighbors on board with cover crops.”

“If you do enough education, and get farmers working together, there’s a really high adoption for cover crops.”

Later in the conference day, two of our board members, along with a local supporter, spoke in breakout sessions and producer panels, including Marty Earnest, our cover crops LGLCI board member. Marty discussed how to retrofit your current row cropping equipment to convert it to a no-till system.

In a separate room, Ted Miller (LA), Cooper Hurst (MS), Brett Peshek (OK) and Tim Tucker (AL), all livestock producers, spoke on a “Grazing Cover Crops” producer panel, which, being a livestock producer, seemed like the best place for me as well. Some nuggets of information from this included the following quotes:

“We’ve seen ecological and economic benefits with cover crops planted as winter annual forages.

Annually, our cost for cover crops is $77/acre, which allows for labor and depreciation. But it’s a huge return on investment- if we can get one ton of dry matter to feed the cattle from that, at 70-80 NDF, I’m getting rocket fuel feed…. If I was to get any of that type feed trucked in, it would be 5x that cost.”

-Ted Miller

“We plant no less than 8 species. We strategically graze off the stockpile as the winter cover is coming, feed hay around Jan, and then start grazing. And we’ve seen our organic matter more than quadruple.” -Cooper Hurst

Row cropper and livestock producer Tim Tucker spoke on how he overseeds ryegrass and brassicas, among other species, to feed his livestock through the winter and decrease hay needed. Their goal is one roll of hay, per animal, per year, and his famous quote of the day was “Any day without hay is a good day.” He also gave some great fencing tips, which included avoiding use of metal posts, which he says will inevitably short out your electric fences.

Brett Peshek, a 1st gen farmer, entered his first farming operation a few years ago with no large equipment at all. His approach to animals was a functional, low-diesel one. He grazes sheep, goats, pastured hens, and has been in pastured pork previously. Brett stated that when he began overseeding a huge variety into his farm’s perennial Bermuda grass, he saw lots more insects, quail, and wildlife.

“I use hay as a tool. If I have a ph problem, I put hay in there.”

Parasites in livestock came up in the discussion, and the panel had much to say, but most agreed with Brett’s approach of keeping animals on the move. “For parasites, I try to rotate across an chickory and plantain pasture- anything with a high tannin level.” “Every dead sheep or goat is a lesson learned- celebrate the top 95% and let the rest go.” -Brett Peshek

In closing of this summary of the cover crop conferences, I leave you with some striking words from Julia Gaskin. Over lunch, Julia was awarded a cover crop champion award for a lifetime of cover crops work, and her speech held some gems.

“Cover crops are beautiful, and we need all the beauty we can get in this world.”

and, “There’s nothing worth doing that can be accomplished in a lifetime.”

-Julia Gaskin, UGA extension service


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