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WSU Offers Grazing for Profit Conference

PULLMAN, Wash. — Improving profits through better utilization of the nation’s pastures and range grasses is the objective of a workshop sponsored by Washington State University.

Donald Nelson, Washington State University extension beef specialist, hopes to bring together livestock producers who graze animals, including producers who are interested in promoting grassfed animal food products.

Nelson says research shows grassfed livestock produce meat, eggs and milk with qualities that promote wellness in people, and markets are developing for these products. He and colleagues in WSU Cooperative Extension have organized a Grazing for Profit conference to explore creation of a livestock graziers’ network.

The conference will be Friday, Jan. 12-Saturday, Jan.13, in Spokane.

Nelson envisions a network dedicated to promoting development of a niche market for healthier food. He foresees a multi-species approach that would include virtually every food animal species — beef, dairy, swine, sheep chickens, turkeys and goats.

Jo Robinson, author of the best selling book, “Why Grassfed Is Best,” will be the principle speaker. Nelson said proponents of eating products from grassfed animals are backed by scientific evidence that the chemical composition of these foods is different from animals fed diets heavy in grain. And some of those differences may be good for human health.

Other speakers at the Spokane conference will be Nelson and Allan Vortman, a Granger, Wash., commercial dairy producer, and a panel that will discuss direct marketing opportunities for products from grassfed animals. Nelson’s topic will be “Creating a Sustainable Future for Livestock Graziers.” Vortman’s topic will be “Pasture-Based Dairying.”

Nelson doesn’t foresee broad scale return to grassfed animal food products. Rather, “an opportunity for smaller operators to produce for a niche market of people who are willing to pay more for their food if it has grassfed qualities they value.

“A possible outcome of the Grazing for Profit Conference might be development of a collaborative niche market,” Nelson said. “This would be an alternative market, not an either/or choice.

“We’re not trying to feed the world with a grassfed livestock industry,” Nelson said, “but perhaps we might develop new markets for this type of food.” He also believes grassfed livestock production may be especially appealing for small operators.

The conference goal is to bring together people who are interested in using grazing in the production of quality products. “In the first day we want to provide them with some thought provoking ideas to expand their thinking about what their new options might be, or new ways of doing old business,” Nelson said.

On the second day of the conference, participants will be asked to form their own livestock graziers network. Nelson said the idea is for such a network to build links between and among graziers to foster marketing alliances, collaborative efforts, more efficient utilization of forage resources, continuing education, and establish a research agenda.

Nelson says grassfed agriculture is environmentally sound and animal-friendly while producing nutritional benefits for humans.

The conference will be held at the Ramada Inn at the Airport. Registration, which is limited to 100 people, will cost $45. To register, contact WSU Cooperative Extension, 222 N. Havana, Spokane, telephone (509) 477-2176. For more information contact Nelson at (509) 335-2922 or by e-mail at nelsond@wsu.edu.

A block of rooms will be held at the motel, at a special rate of $63 per night, including a full breakfast, until Jan. 4.

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