Tag Archives: jason rowntree

Focus on Forages and the Future: The 2nd annual Ag Innovation Day

The second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day that took place at the MSU Lake City Research Center welcomed 230 guests. This year, the theme was Focus on Forages and the Future. The educational field day delivered a cutting-edge, in-depth look at critical topics such as forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing producer demands. People came from across the state, the Midwest and Canada.

Shari Spoelman, MSU Extension District 6 coordinator, helped shuttle people back and forth from their cars, giving her the opportunity to interact with visitors.

“I talked with folks from Ohio, Indiana, Ontario and southern Michigan,” Shari said. “Some wanted to just explore the research center property. Others said they wanted to go to all the sessions. Some had certain things they were especially interested in like soil health or double-cropping. One man arrived with his grandkids – they said they came for something fun to do in the area.”

Throughout the afternoon, farmers had the opportunity to participate in nine sessions focused on topics such as alfalfa genetics, silage, double-cropping, dairy cattle monitoring, soil health, baleage, beef operations management and land regeneration.

MSU senior Extension educator Marilyn Thelen shared that producers from across the state attended her session “Expand Your Land Use With Double-Cropping.”

“The session generated a lot of discussion on how cover crops could be incorporated into various systems for feed or simply for cover,” Marilyn said.

You can find session handouts on the Speakers page.

In the evening, participants attended a reception and were able to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick and connect with other leaders in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Attendees and staff got a chance to mingle with stakeholders and talk about emerging and trending topics in agriculture, including the grass-fed beef and sustainability research Dr. Jason Rowntree is involved with, and matters as important as how we talk about ‘climate change,’” Shari said.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day rotates to various locations throughout the state to give farmers access to experts who can help them improve their businesses while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms. MSU hosted the first Ag Innovation Day on Aug. 24, 2016. The event is the vision brought about after Ag Expo was re-envisioned.

“Ag Innovation Day is the opportunity for farmers to get the most up-to-date information from MSU,” said John Mossner, farmer and MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council member. “It is focusing on sound research and science relating to the type of agriculture conducted at each research station. Having attended both events in the last two years, I am impressed with the effort that MSU Extension is doing to make it a meaningful day.”

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Making a difference in MSU Extension District 6: Recap of the state council visit

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel north to District 6 along with our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch State Council. Shari Spoelman, district coordinator, and the crew in MSU Extension District 6 worked hard to give us a great overview of the programming, research and outreach going on in the district, and arranged for us to spend time with the people they serve.

For those of you who are new to Extension or unfamiliar with the council, we have members from all over the state who serve as a liaison between us and our county councils, field station advisory groups, and state agencies and organizations. The members come from various backgrounds: commodity group leaders, county commissioners, 4-H volunteers and farmers. We even have a meteorologist. The more they know about the work we do and the difference we make around the state, the better they can share the Extension story with our local and state decision-makers.

We began our trip with a chance to see the Kettunen Center, a conference facility owned by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. We heard about how 4-H and Extension use the center to connect with youth and volunteers. Chris Gentry, Kettunen Center director, provided us with a tour. We heard from Sara Keinath, youth development educator, and Jake Stieg, 4-H program coordinator, on the work they do with 4-H such as Mock Interview Day and 4-H Winterfest.

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Next, we traveled to B & B Farms, owned by Dan and Bonnie Blackledge, and heard about how MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center has helped them grow and market their canola seed and oil products. Jerry Lindquist, grazing and field crops educator, met us there to talk more about the relationships that MSU Extension has with specialty crop growers.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products. Everyone stands by their house and barn.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products.

Afterward, we visited Hidden Hills Dairy with Kathy Lee, senior dairy educator, and saw modern technology and the results of MSU Extension input at work on the farm.

State council members tour below the milking parlor where the machines send the milk.

State council members tour the milk machines below the milking parlor at Hidden Hills Dairy.

We ended the day in downtown Cadillac with Marcus Peccia, the city manager, and Carla Filkins, the mayor, to hear about their partnership with the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction; MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League to create a successful placemaking plan. Marcus gave us a tour to see some of the new efforts to make downtown Cadillac a place for the community to gather as part of the Heritage Plaza PlacePlan. We saw the new amphitheater, the outdoor fireplace, the park and the future location of the Cadillac farmers market.

State Council members and administrators pose for a group photograph in downtown Cadillac.

State Council members and administrators in downtown Cadillac.

On Wednesday, Jill O’Donnell, a senior agriculture and agribusiness educator who has worked with the Michigan Christmas tree industry for over 32 years, joined us as we visited the Dutchman Tree Farm in Manton. We met with Steve VanderWeide, the owner, as he shared about farm operations and his connection with MSU Extension. We learned about the soil, tree growth process and market changes that characterize this area of the state.

Next we met up with Erin Lizotte, integrated pest management educator, at Arlene Hops to learn about hops as a re-emerging specialty crop in Michigan and MSU Extension’s efforts to provide research and support. Brian Tennis from the Michigan Hop Alliance answered questions about growing hops as well as the importance of having Extension as a valuable resource in moving forward.

State Council members stand in a hops field and listen to Erin Lizotte talk about Michigan hops.

State Council members get a chance to hear from Erin Lizotte about hop growing in Michigan.

We ended our tour at the Lake City Research Center with Jason Rowntree, Kable Thurlow and Jerry for a tour of the center and a chance to learn more about their research on forage-based livestock, potato production and bioenergy crop production. Jason is an MSU faculty member and Kable is a beef educator who conduct research and outreach at the center.

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Many council members expressed how important it was to learn more about the work we’re doing in this area of the state. It was an extremely successful trip, and I’d like to send a huge “Thank you!” out to everyone who made our visit possible.

You know, the most meaningful part for me is when we meet community members and hear how MSU Extension made a difference in their lives. Nothing beats that.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Parks, Partnerships

JOE: Opportunity to share knowledge, programming

The Journal of Extension (JOE) is the official refereed journal of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System. The acceptance rate for articles is 27.8 percent. Most submissions undergo double-blind review. Contributing to JOE is a great way for Extension staff to engage in scholarly publication.

I’m proud of the fact that Michigan State University Extension boasts two articles in the August 2015 issue.

The Case for a Paradigm Shift in Extension From Information-Centric to Community-Centric Programming” was written by Emma Strong, graduate research assistant; Jason Rowntree, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science; Kable Thurlow, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute; and Matt R. Raven, professor in the Department of Community Sustainability. In the article, the authors assert that the current Extension paradigm of information-centric programming is no longer adequate and Extension should move toward one that is community centric.

College Transition Study Shows 4-H Helps Youth Prepare for and Succeed in College” was written by Judy Ratkos, senior program leader (now retired), and former research assistant Lauren Knollenberg. The article gives the results of a study that showed 4-H alumni rated significantly higher than the comparison group on six life skills constructs.

The publication is a rich resource of the work being done around the country by our Extension colleagues. If you’re not reading it, you’re missing out. If you’re not publishing in it, you may want to.

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Promoting a vibrant local agriculture community

With the intention of promoting and building a vibrant local agriculture community, the 2015 Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference hosted more than 1,000 attendees this past weekend in Traverse City. Two former Michigan State University Extension staff members, Jack Middleton and Dave Glenn, started this event approximately 18 years ago as a grazing conference in Otsego County. Both have since retired, but the conference continued to grow throughout the years. It now fills the largest venue in northern Michigan, the Grand Traverse Resort. The conference now has its own independent planning committee, but many MSU Extension staff members serve, including Stan Moore, Rob Sirrine, Barb Smutek and Wendy Wieland, as well as Susan Cocciarelli from the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems .

Associate director of operations Patrick Cudney and Greening Michigan Institute director Dave Ivan both attended the event, and both were proud of how far the program has come.

“The northern Michigan Small Farm Conference is a wonderful example of Extension work at its finest,” said Patrick. “MSU Extension was there at the beginning to meet the needs of the small farm grazing community by working with producers to identify their needs, bringing research-based education to the community and planning and hosting the event. Over time, the conference has evolved to the point where Extension no longer is needed to be the sole event planner; rather we are at the table, with many partners to plan the event.”

Additionally, many Michigan State University (Extension and otherwise) staff members taught sessions this year, including Julie Avery (MSUE), Jude Barry (MSU CRFS), Noel Bielaczyc (MSU CRFS), George Bird (MSU), Vicki Morrone (MSU CRFS), Rich Pirog (MSU CRFS), Jason Rowntree (MSU), Rob Sirrine (MSUE), Collin Thompson, (MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center) and Michelle Walk (MSUE). In this way, our university was able to add value by offering our research-based educational content to meet growers’ needs even while we no longer host the event.

Patrick went on to say, “In essence, we built capacity and leadership, we support and partner, and we expand our mission of improving the lives of others by applying research-based knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities. Being there Saturday, I reflected upon where this conference has been, where it is today, and where it will go in the future and I was again reminded of the importance of our work and very proud to be part of this organization.”

Congratulations and thank you to all of our team, past and present, for your part in making the conference the success it is.

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RFID technology used to benefit consumers, producers

A few years ago, when bovine tuberculosis was causing concern as it spread through cattle, Michigan State University researchers used radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that allowed cattle to be tracked, thus keeping tabs on the disease. Michigan led the country in mandating RFID ear tags to track the movement of cattle.

 Today MSU researchers are using their expertise to take that same RFID system and use it in creative ways that benefit both the consumer and the producer.

 MSU Department of Animal Science associate professor and MSU Extension beef specialist Dan Buskirk, MSU Extension educator Jeannine Schweihofer, and Department of Animal Science assistant professor and MSU Extension beef specialist Jason Rowntree are working on developing a local model for beef production using the RFID system. Partnering with MSU Culinary Services, a department of MSU Residential and Hospitality Services, the three Extension professionals and their teams are behind the process that allows the serving of MSU-raised and processed beef at cafeterias and restaurants on the MSU campus. The cattle come from the MSU Purebred Beef Cow-Calf Teaching and Research Center and the MSU Beef Cattle Research and Teaching Center.

 The pilot project takes advantage of RFID technology to track the animals. Eventually, the teams hope to develop a system in which the RFID code from each cow is transferred to a barcode on the final package of beef that you’d find in your grocery store freezer. Shoppers could then scan the code using a kiosk or smart phone. In an instant, the consumer would learn where that particular cut of meat came from and how the animal was raised. The researchers are working on perfecting the process, which is made more complicated by the volume of packages that can come from one single cow.

 Rather than “Where’s the beef?” today’s consumer’s cry is usually “Where did this beef come from?” More and more, savvy consumers want to know whether the food they will prepare for their families is locally grown and whether it’s local or not, some want to know what farming practices were used. Expanding the traceability of meat could create new opportunities for consumers interested in buying locally and knowing how the animals supplying their meat were raised. It allows producers to communicate information to consumers instantly and more widely, and in doing so perhaps achieve a higher value-added price for the product.

 At the time RFID tags were required on cattle in Michigan, there was considerable controversy and opposition to the move. Yet Dan and the team have taken what started out as something viewed negatively by some producers into an opportunity to add value to their product through use of technology.

 The Associated Press picked up the story, and it has been getting quite a bit of attention. Click here to read the Associated Press article as it appears in the Washington Post. The story includes photos. That’s a pretty effective way of showing what’s new about MSUE!

Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications produced the following related videos:

In this video, Dan Buskirk explains RFID tracking:

This video features the MSU Local Beef Initiative making MSU-raised beef available in MSU cafeterias:



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Grazing school in Lake City educates producers

Michigan State University Extension ran a two-day intensive school for livestock and dairy producers interested in learning more about grazing practices and systems September 15-16 at the Lake City Experiment Station, part of the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. The grazing school introduced the 23 participants to grazing management practices through classroom instruction and hands-on activities.

Jerry Lindquist discusses various forage plants.

Jerry Lindquist, MSU Extension specialist, discusses the various forage plants found in pastures during the MSUE grazing school. Photo by Robin Usborne

 At the conference, Jerry Lindquist, MSU Extension specialist, discussed the various forage plants found in pastures. Ben Bartlett, senior district Extension educator, presented grazing system planning; Kevin Gould, Extension educator, focused on water system planning; Rich Leep, MSU professor of crop and soil sciences, presented forage management; and Rich Ehrhardt, academic specialist, covered assessing forage availability. Jason Rowntree, MSU assistant professor of animal science, addressed research on pasture management, and Allen Williams, Tallgrass Beef Company, gave a talk on the future of grass-fed beef. Producers left with some practical tips and real-world knowledge to use in their livestock and dairy operations. Participants learned strategies to optimize their pasture’s grazing potential.

Jason Rowntree, MSU animal scientist, talks about research on pasture management.

Jason Rowntree, MSU animal scientist, talks about research on pasture management to participants at the MSUE grazing school. Photo by Robin Usborne

 Pasture-based systems and the grass-fed livestock market are growing. The goal of the grazing school was to provide introduction material and hands-on training for new producers entering into the business. At the same time, the school aimed to provide information and training for seasoned beef producers as well. According to Dr. Rowntree, thirty percent of the school’s survey respondents indicated they plan to add 50 to 100 head of grazing livestock to their farms in the next year.

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