OVERTON – It’s a good news/good news situation.
First good news: It’s hard to find alumni of the Pasture and Livestock Management Workshops for beginners who have anything but praise for the course.
Second good news: There are still openings for the spring 2005 classes, which will be in March and April at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton.
“Unlike other Extension ranching programs, the focus of this program is not so much how to fine-tune an operation, but how to get started in ranching and pasture management the right way with research-based information,” said Dr. Larry Redmon, forage specialist with Texas Cooperative Extension and coordinator of the workshops. “We will start the program with the assumption that our audience knows next to nothing about ranching except that they want to do it,”
Past alumni agree unequivocally.
Linda Galayda, 2003 alumna and owner/manager of a family ranch near Palestine, describes herself as an “A-plus-plus” type personality. Galayda retired as a vice president in marketing for Foley’s department stores to take over management of the ranch when her father died. She found the course made to order, she said.
“My dad did it from his gut. He did an excellent job with the cattle, but it was hard for him to explain the why’s, the theory,” Galayda said. Jerry Atkinson, retired certified public accountant from New Mexico, recently bought land near Mineola.
Atkinson, a 2004 alumnus, said he was “looking for a change. Primarily something agricultural,” and bought cattle to stock acreage. Atkinson said that the class saved him money and wasted effort at every turn.
“I’m sure I would have wasted $3,000 in phosphorus – 10 times the cost of the course – otherwise,” Atkinson said..
After retiring, George and Sandy Faison gradually expanded their cattle business, moving into producing show calves and building their commercial herd on their northeast Texas land.
“But we didn’t grow up doing this. We felt like beginners,” said Sandy, a 2001 alumna. “We had gathered a lot of information over the years, but the grazing school and being able to ask all the questions we wanted allowed us to put it together.”
Ron Northcutt, who has an agriculture-related degree from the University of Oklahoma, wasn’t naive about the difficulties in making a cattle operation pay. When he read about the grazing workshop, he sent in his registration check the same day.
“It was a good thing I acted quickly. The class filled up right away.” Northcutt knew he needed more information, but finding material specific to his locale and conditions was hard. The grazing school filled in all the blanks, he said.
“I needed to know the basics. I needed more than I was finding on the Internet, something that put everything together.”
Galayda, Atkinson, the Faisons and Northcutt represent a small fraction of the 225 participants who have attended the grazing school since its inception in 2001. The 225 represent nearly 90,000 acres of farm acreage collectively, ranging in individual size from 25 acres to 32,000 acres. Because the workshop is designed for one-on-one interaction with Texas A&M University System faculty, registration is restricted to 50 people. Participants are encouraged to register now. Registration for one workshop was nearly filled by mid-October. Past experience has shown registration slots will fill up fast and early, Redmon noted.
The Overton Center is the regional headquarters for both Extension specialists and scientists with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. A number of these will be involved in the program.
“Each workshop lasts three days, with about half that time spent in the field for various demonstrations of ‘how-to’ methodologies of planting, calibrating sprayers, inoculating legume seed, castrating, vaccination, and de-horning calves, pasture and livestock management, and more,” Redmon said.
On the Extension side, a forage specialist, a beef cattle specialist and an agribusiness economist will give presentations and demonstrations. From the Experiment Station side, a plant breeder of annual ryegrass and small grains, a forage legume breeder, a forage management researcher and a forage physiology researcher will provide instruction and demonstrations.
Those attending will learn how to establish a business plan for a ranch, how to keep proper records, how to evaluate alternative agricultural enterprises, how to choose the appropriate forage species for East Texas, how to fertilize pastures, design forage systems that minimize winter feeding costs, set up pastures for cattle, set the correct stocking rates, choose the appropriate cattle breeds for East Texas, pick the optimum animal breeding/calving seasons, and promote good animal health and how to market cattle.
Researchers will also give tours of numerous forage and grazing study sites, showing how theory is carried to actual practice. A demonstration on how to move livestock with stock dogs will be presented.
The Extension beef cattle specialist will demonstrate how to perform implants, ear-tagging and castration. The soil scientist will discuss in detail how soil samples are taken and how to fertilize based on the results. The presentation on how to establish pastures will include an explanation of planter types and demonstrate calibrating them for proper seeding rates. The forage specialist will walk attendees through the process of precision sprayer calibration for weed management.
Cost of registration is $300 per person, which includes two evening meals, two lunches, break refreshments and educational materials. Also included in the registration fee is a limited edition monogrammed cap and shirt.
“This $300 will probably be the least expensive and wisest investment landowners ever make in the cattle business. The registration fee basically covers the meals and educational materials. Having the opportunity to pick the brains of eight senior researchers and Extension specialists is basically free,” Redmon said.
“Sit down with a CPA, ask yourself how long it would take to spend $300 in the cattle business,” he said. “We’re giving 24 hours of information during three days of instruction designed to save them money – big money – and headaches.”
To register, send a check or money order to: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Grazing School Registration, P.O. Box 200, Overton, TX 75684. Note “attention Sunni McMillan” on the envelope. Make the check or money order out to TAES.
For more information, contact Redmon either by phone (903-834-6191) or by email:email@example.com.