By DEAN REA

For the Capital Press

Grasses and other forages have found a voice in Oregon.

Nearly a hundred people associated with the agricultural community attended the first event sponsored by the Oregon Forage and Grasslands Council on Oct. 15 at the Rock'n D Ranch near Junction City, Ore.

"We're trying to give forage a voice," said Chad Hale, a seed buyer from Lebanon who served as spokesman for the group, which was formed six months ago.

That voice, which has been fragmented, should be heard not only in the agricultural community but also in legislative halls in the state and nation, he said.

The council represents all aspects of the forage industry, including farmers, ranchers, seed growers, seed companies, private consultants, university and extension personnel.

An April business meeting is planned for election of officers in the council, which will be associated with the American Forage and Grassland Council.

Hale said council objectives include promoting the use of improved forages and increasing productivity and profitability of Oregon's grasslands.

"We also expect to promote the standardization of commonly used descriptive terms and testing procedures in the forage industry," he said.

The council also plans to be heard in the Oregon Legislature and the U.S. Congress and to speak for the industry on such issues as zoning, land-use and the production of ethanol fuels.

An advocate is needed in places like Oregon State University, where a budget shortfall of between 15 and 25 percent is envisioned, said Russ Karow, head of the crop and soil science department.

Officials there are considering eliminating some services and consolidating various educational programs, he said.

Sales representatives of turf and grass seed companies pledged their cooperation in promoting a more unified voice for the forage industry. About three-fourths of those who attended were producers.

Pam Detering, who specializes in raising Black Angus cattle at the Rock'n D Ranch, led a pasture walk on a 40-acre site.

She explained how 30 years ago she cleared pasture between a pond and a river and planted fescue, orchard grass and clover. She battled Canadian thistle, wire weed and velvet, which she said the cattle "hated."

With help from Woody Lane, who operates a consulting firm in Roseburg, she began a rotational grazing program for 100 cattle.

She separated the field into four pastures and eventually had a commercial firm install a watering and irrigation system that made it possible to rotate cattle on 40 sites, moving cattle every 24 hours.

"It has resulted in the best grazing I've had in 30 years, the velvet grass is no longer a problem and the cattle are happy," she said.

The 2009 Fall Forage Day was conducted in conjunction with the Willamette Valley Grazing and Nutrition Group meeting.

Persons interested in joining the Oregon Forage and Grasslands Council should mail a $35 check to OFGC, Box 197, Tangent, OR 97389.

Freelance writer/photographer Dean Rea is based in Eugene, Ore. E-mail: deanrea@comcast.net.

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