The most forage-focused presentation, however, was by Dr. Don Ball (Auburn) and Dr. Garry Lacefield (Kentucky). They are both extension forage specialists and have worked with Oregon grass seed growers for many years. The relationship is mutually beneficial. Oregon grows the majority of the world’s cool season forages such as fescue, ryegrass and clover. Ball and Lacefield come from an area where successful grazing and feeding livestock involves cool season forages. They help Oregon forage growers produce better seed so Southern livestock growers can produce the best stock.

A study was mentioned in their presentation that perked the interest of many growers. It was a study focused on comparing grass fed beef and grain fed beef conducted by Clemons University Professor Susan Duckett. It showed that when all growing and harvest factors were the same except the feed, there was no noticeable difference in the palpability of beef. The grass fed beef was leaner and offered a better concentration of good fatty acids.

This study was focused in the Appalachia region of the U.S. Clearly this may not be the case for other regions where there are varying factors for growing conditions.

Interestingly enough, another study just came out a few weeks ago from Washington State University on how organic milk had higher Omega 3 levels than conventionally produced milk. The higher concentration of these fatty acids is not because the milk is organic; it is because it was pasture-fed cows producing the milk.

These studies may not be completely relevant to your operation but may help shape ideas or incorporate different practices. However, it is important to remember one thing – a producer must do what is most logical for the individual operation. The goal should always be to do what is best for your operation where you can produce the highest quality product possible for your consumers. 

Marie Bowers is a freelance writer based in Harrisburg, Oregon, and currently serves as President for Oregon Women for Agriculture.