Forage and beef farm tour draws a big crowd

Conservation specialist Evan Blumenstein talks about programs available to farmers for improving grazing and water quality. Photo by Gail Swift.

More than 80 local farmers attended a series of workshops and lectures at various sites on Woodville’s sprawling Eldon Farms last Thursday (July 29), a successful day by any measure.

Sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, lectures and discussions were held on many subjects, including feeding methods that recycle nutrients; social, economic and environmental impact of farming; managing pastures for year-round grazing, conservation ideas and pasture ecology.

Eldon Farms manager John Genho spoke about how the 7,600-acre farm, Rappahannock’s largest cattle operation, managed to graze most of its 1,400 head of cattle last winter, even with the incredible amount of snow, bringing in very little hay. “Cattle know where the good stuff is,” he said. Eldon cut hay production in half, he said, and produced better quality forage by measuring the growth and quality of the grass and carefully timing the grazing, thereby retaining the most nutrients. Assisting in the education program were Eldon cowboys Robert Gainer and Rich Bradley.

Scott Hagood of Virginia Tech, Genho, and Rappahannock Extension agent Kenner Love lectured on weed control, Genho and Culpeper Extension agent Carl Stafford on managing standing forage and cattle to prepare for winter.

At Eldon Farms’ scales, Fauquier Extension agent Tim Mize and the state Veterinarian Office’s Daniel Kovich spoke on beef cattle and body condition; and district manager Greg Wichelns and conservation specialist Evan Blumenstein of the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District lectured on leveraging conservation programs for improved grazing and water.

After a break for lunch by Mill Valley Barbecue, lectures continued on grazing management by Ed Rayburn, forage specialist at West Virginia University and management philosophy by Genho.

Rappahannock’s animal control officers were also able to attend and received continuing education credits.

“These programs would not be possible without sponsors such as we had Thursday — Virginia Grasslands, the Farm Bureau, Rappahannock CFC, Farm Credit, Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District,” said Rappahannock’s Love.

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s mission is to provide educational opportunities where one can learn from peers, provide informal exchanges and interaction. With the current state of Extension Service funding, programs such as this one, and the recent “Woods in Your Back Yard,” can only be realized with sponsorships, Love said.