Published on 01/04/17

GrassMasters course aims to improve forage production across northeast Georgia

By Merritt Melancon

Facing severe drought and hay shortages, northeast Georgia cattle farmers were as eager as anyone to see 2016 in the rearview mirror.

As it prepares for a better and more prosperous 2017, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is offering its GrassMasters training course to help cattle farmers make the most of their pastureland and hayfields.

“We can’t do anything about drought, but we can equip farmers with all of the forage management tools they need to make the best of any situation,” said Adam Speir, Madison County UGA Extension coordinator and member of the UGA Extension Forage Team.

The $25, seven-week GrassMasters program offers background information to forage and hay production newcomers, and new techniques and tips to seasoned farmers who want to try something new this spring.

“Even people who have years of experience but are looking to improve what they’re doing or looking at some new options, I think they’ll benefit from this course,” Speir said.

Speir thinks the timeliness of the program could also benefit local producers affected by the drought.

“After the most recent drought, producers may be looking to replace stands that were lost, or even to renovate stands that were weakened,” Speir said. “This course will provide producers with some options to improve forage quality and the best practices to maximize forage efficiency.”

The course will focus on the forages proven best for northeast Georgia and strategies for grazing, maintaining soil fertility and health, and managing pests.

Members of the UGA Forage Team and U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service staff members will teach all of the classes.

The cost for all seven weeks is $25, and the course is open to anyone interested in improving his or her knowledge of pastureland health or forage and hay production. Seating is limited, so interested farmers and landowners are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Visit or call 706-342-2214 for more information.

This year’s GrassMasters classes will be held at the UGA livestock instructional arena at South Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road in Athens, Georgia, and is sponsored by UGA Extension offices in Madison and Morgan counties.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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