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More than 250 learn forage at Virgilina ranch

More than 250 landowners from Virginia and North Carolina turned out Thursday for a Forage Field Day held at Triple Creek Ranch — The Poore Family Farm on Clarksville Road in Virgilina.

Representatives from both Virginia and North Carolina Farm Bureaus also participated in the afternoon field day that provided participants an opportunity to hear and see how this operation manages grazing and forage production through the challenges of summer to sustain their cow herd while putting pounds on their yearling steers and heifers.

The event got under way at 2:30 p.m. and concluded with dinner.

Triple Creek Ranch is located in southeastern Halifax County directly on the North Carolina line just outside of Virgilina.

Triple Creek Ranch is a family farm owned by Dr. and Mrs. Henry Poore and managed by their son, Matt, and their grandsons, Korey Muller and Noah Bowman. The family has been farming at this location since 1977 and has additional pastureland in Granville County, N.C. where they have raised cattle since the early 1960s.

Each year 130 cows calve from Sept. 15 to Dec. 1. Calves are weaned in early May, and steer calves are marketed in late summer as VQA Feeder Cattle as part of the Southern Virginia Beef Alliance.

In addition, some bred heifers are sold each year, and an increasing number of steers and heifers are being finished in a pasture based system, both for retail and wholesale markets including Farmhand Foods.

Thursday’s tour featured current projects being implemented to improve the farm’s forage system and reduce environmental impact.

“We got all our goals met Thursday,” said K. Jason Fisher, Central District extension agent/ANR for forestry and natural resources in the Central District. 

Throughout the field day, participants rotated between various stations viewing and discussing specific management techniques. 

A variety of speakers from private, state and federal agencies made presentations on highlighted topics including converting to endophyte-free fescue using summer annuals, managing what farmers have to extend the grazing season and low stress handling of cattle. 

Other topics covered included fencing and watering to make it work, grazing summer forages for yield and quality, stock piling for winter grazing, conservation practices that are helping to make the system sustainable, wildlife management in riparian buffer zones and technical and financial assistance that is available to support improved pasture management. 

Robert Shoemaker and Ronnie Holman, Virginia and North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council presidents, welcomed those attending followed by an overview by Dr. Matt Poore of North Carolina State University.

A farm tour followed featuring presentations by Chris Teutsch of Virginia Tech, Joe Davidson of Berry Hill Irrigation and Taylor Clarke of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Raymond Cocke of Natural Resources Conservation Service and Marc Puckett of Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Dr. Brian Campbell of Virginia Tech and Stacey Marshall of Pennington Seed and Dr. Mark Alley of North Carolina State University.

The event concluded with an evening meal featuring Triple Creek Ranch’s very own beef and a discussion on the future of pasture beef production in the United States by Greg Maxey of Virginia Farm Bureau, Bryan Blinson and Jason Carter of North Carolina and Virginia Cattlemen’s Associations and Johnny Rogers of Rogers Cattle Company, LLC.

According to the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council website, forages are the foundation of the state’s animal agriculture and contribute millions of dollars annually to Virginia farms. 

Forages are produced on 75 percent of farms.

It is estimated that 3 million acres of pasture and 1.5 million acres of hay and silage are harvested annually in Virginia. This acreage represents 70 percent of the open farmland in the state. 

Over 75 and 65 percent of marketed beef and dairy products respectively are derived directly from forages and forages provide even larger proportions of all feeds consumed by sheep and horses. 

In gross value, hay is considered the state’s third largest crop.

The bottom line is this: in Virginia, a viable animal agriculture depends on forages, according to the website.

The Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Virginia Cooperative Extension hosted the event.