Grazing enthusiasts gather national conference
More than 450 grazing enthusiasts from across the U.S. gathered in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 9 to 12, 2012, for the Fifth National Conference on Grazing Lands. This event focused on grazing lands and the conservation benefit they offer to America's livestock producers, watersheds and wildlife.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-OK--who is also chairman of the House Agriculture Committee--presented remarks during the opening session of the conference. Lucas spoke of the challenges in Congress including efforts to get the 2012 farm bill passed. He noted the Dust Bowl of the 30s and farm financial crisis of the 80s and said, "My goal is to make sure we have federal policy that does not create or enhance the agony like we had in those times."
He added, "We've been so successful with conservation, most people don't think that can happen again. That's not true."
That said, Lucas encouraged attendees to attend town meetings and other events to develop a relationship with their representatives to Congress and their staff. He concluded, "So when it matters, you can pick up the phone and call them, and you can make a difference."
Renowned animal scientist Temple Grandin also addressed 5NCGL attendees and shared strategies for improving animal welfare. She noted that calm animals are easier to handle--and have better productivity and performance.
Grandin also encouraged livestock producers to be proactive in educating the public--and legislators--about the good things the industry is doing with regard to animal care and welfare. She encouraged the use of social media such as Facebook and YouTube videos to help "show" the efforts being done.
With regard to livestock grazing, she noted there is still a stereotype that cattle are detrimental to the land. Grandin said, "We've got to keep educating people that with management cattle can be beneficial for grazing lands and the environment."
Speaker presentations, a trade show, educational poster displays, and ample discussions in the hallway were the ingredients that made for a successful 5th National Conference on Grazing Lands.
"Grazing Lands...The Magical Environment" was the theme of the conference--with a nod to the Magical Kingdom in near proximity to the event. But, on a more serious note, many of the presenters and participants discussed the beneficial value properly managed grazing lands offer to the nation--in the form of productive lands for raising livestock, providing habitat for wildlife and the boost to soil health and water infiltration in watersheds.
Among the presenters were Colorado rancher Kit Pharo, who shared his philosophy on moving from a production mentality to one of profit for beef production; noted animal behaviorist Fred Provenza, who shared thoughts on nutritional wisdom among livestock--and humans; and numerous producers from around the country who raise everything from beef and dairy cattle to sheep, goats and horses.
Many attendees concurred that the true "magic" of the event was the opportunity to listen and learn from real-life producers who are stewards of the land every day.
The Fifth National Conference on Grazing Lands was hosted by the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative with sponsorship support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Agricultural Research Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Mosaic Company, Farm Credit and numerous additional sponsors. For additional information visit www.glci.org.