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Conference to help hay, forage growers maximize profits, sustainability of operations

RUIDOSO, N.M. - Resource-use efficiency, profitability, alternative cropping and marketing options will highlight the New Mexico Hay Association's 2010 Southwest Hay and Forage Conference in Ruidoso Jan 14-15.

"Tough economic times, high input costs and the ever-increasing strain of limited resources make it very challenging for forage producers to remain profitable or even survive," said Mark Marsalis, a Cooperative Extension Service agronomist with New Mexico State University. "Getting the most out of every drop of water and unit of fertilizer and producing a clean, high-quality product are more important now than ever before."

This year's conference will address these and other issues and will provide information to help growers maximize profits and sustainability in their operations, Marsalis added.

One of the highlights at the conference will be discussion of the New Mexico Noxious Weed Free Forage Program. This program gives growers a value-added product with their weed-free hay and may be a good alternative way to market hay and add stability for growers during times of large price swings in the conventional hay market.

"Many federal, state and local agencies are requiring the use of certified noxious weed-free commodities, such as hay, on their lands," said Tracey Carrillo, director of the NMSU Seed Certification Program.

Other topics at this year's conference include an update on the NMSU Alfalfa Breeding Program, the latest in low-lignin and Roundup Ready biotechnology advances in alfalfa, as well as some of the common pests encountered in 2009. An irrigation session will feature presentations on the benefits of drip irrigation in forage production and the economics associated with drip irrigation in forage systems.

In addition, a New Mexico Department of Agriculture representative will give an update on the latest rules and regulations associated with pesticide applications and reporting.

Similar to last year's conference, the program will include talks on forage crops such as corn grown for silage and small grains grown for both hay and silage.

"Each year, more producers are growing alternative hay and silages in addition to or in place of their traditional alfalfa hay operations, and the New Mexico Hay Association wants to provide farmers educational opportunities in these areas," Marsalis said. "It is important that alfalfa hay growers know the other forage options that are available to them and those that will grow well in New Mexico."

Presentations on types of fertilizers and placement and planting practices will round out the program.

The two-day conference will have a large-machinery trade show featuring the latest in farm equipment, as well as booths with various alfalfa and forage-related products, two sponsored meals, women's interest sessions involving crafts and entrepreneurships, a social hour and entertainment provided by comedian Jerry Carroll.

"The conference offers attendees access to a wide variety of the most up-to-date information and technology," said Justin Boswell, executive director of NMHA. "This event is a destination for a number of vendors and industry persons and offers attendees access to company representatives and their products, even very large equipment, all under the same roof."

The event will provide New Mexico Pesticide Applicator continuing education units (CEUs). Texas Pesticide Applicator CEUs have been applied for as well.

The conference starts Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. at the Ruidoso Convention Center. Preregistration is $55 per person. After Jan. 5, registration costs $75. Attendees can register at the door for $75.

For more information on the conference, visit http://www.nmhay.com or contact Gina Sterrett by phone at (575) 626-5677 or by e-mail at nmhay@yahoo.com or contact Boswell at (575) 840-9908 or juboswel@yahoo.com.

Marsalis can be contacted at (575) 985-2292 or marsalis@nmsu.edu.

Contact Sterrett for a copy of the registration form. Booth space is still available.