Several HPWD staff members attended the Forage and Livestock Field Day on Thursday, July 9, 2015. This event was hosted by the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC) and the Texas Coalition for Sustainable Integrated Systems at the Texas Tech Research Farm in New Deal, Texas. The day was filled with rain, several educational workshops, a chuck wagon lunch and a question and answer panel discussion.
Some of the workshops included: Soil quality and health, forage sorghum and annual forages, native grass pasture management, and beef cattle nutrition and research.
The first stop along the Forage and Livestock Field Day tour was the Texas Tech Beef Cattle Forage Nutrition and Research workshop hosted by Sara Trojan and Jhones Sarturi. At this workshop, HPWD learned that crude protein comes from native grasses or forages and is crucial to the growth of livestock animals, specifically beef cattle. Most native grasses are between seven and eight percent crude protein. However, as the summer progresses forages rapidly decline in quality and must be supplemented because a 550 pound beef cattle animal requires approximately 10 percent crude protein to gain one and a half pounds per day.
Next, HPWD attended the forage sorghum and annual forages workshop with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomists Jourdan Bell and Calvin Trostle. This workshop provided HPWD with insight on what aspects factor into the quality of sorghum forages. The quality of sorghum forages depend on the maturity at which they are harvested, fermentation, packing and chop length. Forage quality plays an important role in livestock diets; this is especially true for young livestock.
Additionally, sorghum forage tends to require less water than other forage crops such as corn and alfalfa. When managed properly, sorghum forage can use between 25 and 40 percent less water than corn and other forages. With water becoming a scarcity in many places, using less is a necessity.
“I call it the 15-15-15 guideline. In 15 years, 15 percent of the land will no longer be irrigated and the land that is still irrigated will be irrigated by 15 percent less. We are headed toward dry land farming so forage gives producers some options,” Trostle said.
Following the beneficial workshop about forages, HPWD had the opportunity to learn about soil health and quality. This workshop was hosted by National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Scientist Kelley Attebury and Agriculture Research Service (ARS) Soil Microbiologist Veronica Acosta Martinez. Soil quality is separated into three components: physical, chemical and biological. Soil health depends on the quality of each component of the soil.
Soil health is important to sustainable agriculture so soil management is essential. There are four basic rules in managing soil health: Keep the soil covered as much as possible, disturb the soil as little as possible, keep plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil, and diversify as much as possible using crop rotation and cover crops. By following these four simple rules to soil health, the three components to soil quality should stay in balance providing healthy soil.
Finally, the HPWD crew attended a workshop regarding native grass pasture management. Hosted by West Texas A&M University Assistant Professor of Rangeland Resource Management Tim Steffens, this workshop taught HPWD about the different types of native grasses and their capacities. For example, buffalo grass is a low maintenance grass that requires little water while Bermuda grass requires high maintenance and is water intensive.
Furthermore, it is important when planting a range grass to understand the available resources, production requirements, functionality of the grass and needs of the livestock or producer.
The Forage and Livestock Field Day was a very educational experience for the HPWD crew. The workshops covered everything from the soil, to the plant, and finally to the finished product used in livestock feeding.
Thank you TAWC, Texas Coalition for Sustainable Integrated Systems and Texas Tech for all of your hard work in putting this together! More information about TAWC can be found at: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/tawc/. More information about the Texas Coalition for Sustainable Integrated Systems can be found at: http://www.orgs.ttu.edu/forageresearch/.