Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Clemson Extension, and West Virginia University Extension Service have partnered to organize the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Grass-Finished Livestock Conference.

The two-day conference will take place at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Staunton, Va., on Oct. 23-24. The theme of this year’s conference is “Merging the Art and Science of Grass Finishing.”

“This high-caliber conference will provide producers and agricultural professionals with science-based information about producing and marketing a consistently high-quality, grass-finished product,” said Chris Teutsch, Extension forage specialist at Virginia Tech’s Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone, Va.

“It will cover forage systems for grass finishing, alternative marketing outlets, small-scale processing facilities, healthy grazing systems, supplementation in pasture finishing, factors affecting meat quality, and genetics for grass finishing. It will also feature a meat cutting and cooking demonstration and a grass-finished success story from Yanceyville, N.C.”

Nationally and internationally recognized experts will deliver science-based information to producers and share the art of applying that science in the field:

• Anibal Pordomingo of the University of La Pampa in Santa Rosa, Argentina, will talk about designing “forage chains” to meet the high nutritional requirements of finishing animals. He is both a university researcher and a grass-finished beef producer.

• Denise Mainville, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, will present recent research addressing alternative markets for pasture-finished beef.

• Joe Cloud of T & E Meats in Harrisonburg, Va., will discuss challenges and opportunities for small-scale processing facilities. He will provide conference participants with the unique perspective of a small-scale processor of grass-finished livestock.

• Ed Rayburn, forage Extension specialist at West Virginia University, will talk about the ecology of pasture systems and how to build healthy grazing systems with strong nutrient cycles. He brings a unique perspective with undergraduate and graduate training in ecology — not forages.

• John Andrae, forage Extension specialist at Clemson University, will tackle supplementation in pasture-based finishing systems and its impact on meat quality. He conducts pasture-finishing research in South Carolina and has a comprehensive knowledge of forage systems in the southeastern United States.

• Susan Duckett, professor and endowed chair in Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Clemson University, will talk about factors affecting the meat quality and health benefits of pasture-finished livestock. An internationally renowned meat scientist, Duckett has the ability to bring the biochemistry of meats to a level that non-scientists can understand and appreciate.

• Jeremy Engh of Lakota Ranch in Remington, Va., will discuss the importance of cattle genetics in grass-finishing systems. He not only produces and markets grass-finished beef, he also hosts Virginia’s only forage-based bull test.

• V. Mac Baldwin of Baldwin Family Farms in Yanceyville, N.C., will tell the story of his grass-finished beef operation and provide marketing tips. Baldwin uses large-framed animals that produce an exceptionally lean product. He direct-markets this product to health-conscious consumers and has developed a wholesale marketing arrangement with a major retailer.

• Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Swoope, Va., will provide a guided tour of his farm. A leader and innovator in the local food movement for decades, Salatin will discuss the various enterprises on his farm and his marketing methodology.

The early registration fee is $200 per participant and must be postmarked by Sept. 15, 2009. After that date, the registration fee increases to $300 per participant. Students qualify for a reduced registration rate. Early registration is advised, as space is limited. A special conference rate for hotel rooms is available on a limited basis. To make room reservations, contact the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Staunton, Va., at (800) 932-9061.

For more information or to register for the conference, contact Margaret Kenny at (434) 292-5331.