- Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: bovine, goats, sheep
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, feed/forage
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, workshop
- Pest Management: competition, field monitoring/scouting, weed ecology
Because high quality perennial forages in pastures and hayland are critical to sustaining our livestock agriculture in New England, proper identification and management of both weed and forage species are needed. Weeds in these systems pose important management challenges for livestock farmers as they often compete for both above- and below-ground resources that may reduce forage yields, seasonal pasture distribution, and stand life. Most weeds mature very quickly, reducing the quality of the forages at times of optimum harvests. Some weed species can also serve as indicator plants, suggesting mismanagement of pasture and haycrops such as soil compaction, low fertility, and overgrazing. Being able to identify weeds and understanding their biology, as well as understanding forage quality, are key in helping farmers develop effective forage management strategies. However, survey results indicate that New England agriculture service providers lack the proper knowledge, skills, and confidence to identify both weed and forage species, as well as developing appropriate strategies to manage them on our livestock farms.
This project will help Extension educators, USDA NRCS and non-profit personnel throughout New England better identify weed and forage species and study pasture and haycrop management strategies to optimize forage quality on livestock farms. Trainings will be conducted through in-person sessions (which will include classroom and in-field components) and webinars (delivered live but also archived as online resources). Participants will be expected to conduct a self-study of assigned forage and/or weed species and develop management “help” factsheets; these will be compiled into a resource guide for use among trainees as well as farmers. Participants will also be expected to conduct a farmer educational activity (e.g., workshop, field day, video, etc.) to solidify their knowledge, skill, and confidence levels.
Performance targets from proposal:
20 agricultural service providers in New England who gain skills in weed and forage identification and biology, and integrated weed management techniques will provide educational programs and services to 200 experienced and beginning farmers who manage an average of 120 acres; 100 farmers will adopt integrated weed control and forage management practices that extend the grazing season, decrease herbicide usage, reduce purchased feed inputs, and improve animal performance on 100 acres each (10,000 acres total).