Last year a bold new approach for the decades-old Forage Masters Competition was introduced. The new format centered on a self-assessment to identify best practices already followed and identify areas where improvements could be made to boost productivity and forage quality. Four of the regional winners accepted the invitation to present a precis of their production system at the OSCIA Annual Conference, and the delegates and guests from across the province cast secret ballots to determine the overall champion.
One of the four presenters, Harold Zettler, a beef feedlot and sheep producer representing the Georgian Central Region, described the self-assessment as “a superior full-picture product, and like anything new will take some time to grow.” He called the new approach, “an excellent resource for the farm, allowing users to measure against a standard. It’s a tool that benefits the farm more than an (on-farm judging) competition.”
Larry Davis from the Golden Horseshoe Region and a long-time competitor in Forage Masters, shared his perspectives on the growing domestic and international hay export markets. He recognized the value of crop monitoring and precise record-keeping and emphasized to delegates that the new book contains high quality information that can be put to good use on the farm. “Don’t be intimidated,” he said.
Grant Cowan presented via a pre-recorded video to satisfy his need to stick close by his operation in Simcoe County to accommodate lambing season. He joined in the panel discussion using Skype. Cowan was new to the Forage Masters program and saw it as a tremendous opportunity to measure and compare forage production practices, saying, “The self-assessment allowed me to clearly focus on areas needing attention.”
Doug Johnston, a Perth County dairy producer representing the Heartland Region and eventual winner of the speaking competition, shared with delegates his production formula for superior growing, harvest and storage of forages. “I very much enjoyed the new format,” said Johnston, and like the other participants, completed the self-assessment on-line. “It is a tool that challenges us and helps the next generation understand why we follow certain practices.”
The speaking competition was generously sponsored by Pro Rich Seeds of Mount Elgin in Oxford County. Each speaker received a customized vest sporting the Forage Masters emblem and the logos of all sponsors which also included General Seed Company Inc. of Alberton and SGS Agrifood Laboratories in Guelph. By the end of the evening a new provincial Forage Master was named and delegates at the OSCIA annual conference couldn’t stop talking about the competition.
Source : Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association