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NMSU experts to speak at Southwest Hay and Forage Conference Jan. 15-17 in Ruidoso

At the annual Southwest Hay and Forage Conference in Ruidoso, Jan. 15-17, growers will come together to learn about the different production aspects and limitations to forage production in the Southwest, including pests and fertilization, drought and water supplies, and marketing barriers.

Other highlights of this year's conference include saline soil management, updates on the dairy situation in the Southwest, new mobile device technology for agriculture and alternative waste management and energy generation on farms.

New Mexico Hay Association and New Mexico State University host the annual event.

"As alfalfa and other forage producers face future commodity and economic uncertainty, it is critical for them to learn about the latest industry and university research advances," said Mark Marsalis, NMSU forage specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service.

"It is critical that producers understand what the factors are that are limiting their productivity and how to adjust management accordingly," he said. "Many new products and technologies, pest control options, and even new land uses are becoming available that could be valuable options for them in the future."

This year's conference will address these and other topics to provide information to help growers maximize profits and sustainability on their farms.

Although recent rains and snow have helped ease the drought conditions in the region, drought and water supplies are still on everyone's minds. David DuBois, NMSU's state climatologist, will give an update on the drought situation in New Mexico and the impact on water supplies in the state.

Pest management is always a concern to farmers, and several speakers this year will cover some of the more important pest issues facing forage producers.

Sam Smallidge, NMSU Extension wildlife specialist, will discuss the various small vertebrate pests common in New Mexico and different methods of control and ways to minimize crop damage.

Brian Archuleta, USDA wildlife specialist, will present the latest on feral hog pest populations in New Mexico after several years of eradication efforts. He will give an overview of control options and how to best target the destructive and prolific pest.

In addition, Sarah Zukoff, Kansas State University entomology specialist, will cover control options for spider mites in corn. Spider mites are an ever-changing important pest in corn and can cause considerable damage if left untreated.

Saline soils and potentially saline waters are becoming more of an issue in agricultural production throughout the West. Don Miller from Producer's Choice Seed will present information on how best to manage alfalfa under such saline conditions and how to reduce the impact of salts in hay systems.

Jason Turner, NMSU Extension horse specialist, will present "Hay Grower's Toolkit for Educating Horse Hay Buyers." This will give hay growers valuable insight into horse hay consumers' needs and concerns from a feed value, quality and marketing perspective.

Demand for and use of mobile device apps are on the increase in agricultural settings. These programs have the potential to make certain farm practices easier and more efficient. Jeff Miller of Pioneer Hi-bred will present the latest applicability and benefits of the most commonly used apps available to producers.

Other topics at the conference include chemical and technology updates from industry representatives, corn and alfalfa fertilization by Paul Wayland of Wilbur Ellis; a presentation on water monitoring technology and data analysis by Brad Rathje of AquaCheck USA; NRCS EQIP and emergency programs by Cliff Sanchez, NRCS assistant state conservationist for programs; and an update on the recovering dairy status in the region by Robert Hagevoort, NMSU Extension dairy specialist.

"This conference provides an opportunity for producers to learn valuable and practical information that can be taken back home with them and utilized on their farms," Marsalis said. "There will be information for all types of forage growers, including alfalfa hay and silage producers."

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 other forage-related products, two sponsored meals, a social hour and entertainment.

"The conference offers attendees access to a wide variety of the most up-to-date research information and industry technology," said Justin Boswell, executive director of the New Mexico Hay Association. "The 2013 conference was another great experience for our attendees and we think this year is shaping up quite well too! The New Mexico Hay Association is very grateful to all of our sponsors for helping us bring this conference together."

The event also includes entertainment for the entire family. Cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell, the "Buckaroo Poet," returns this year for his unique style of storytelling following the banquet dinner on Jan. 16. Continuing with recent tradition and back by popular demand, a music and dancing event will follow Mitchell's performance.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been invited as the keynote closing speaker.

The two-day event will provide both New Mexico (3 credits) and Texas (3.5 credits) pesticide applicator and Certified Crop Advisor Continuing Education Units.

The conference starts at 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Ruidoso Convention Center, 111 Sierra Blanca Dr. Attendees can register at the door for $120 per person or $310 for a 3-person package.

For more information on the Southwest Hay and Forage Conference, visit http://www.nmhay.com, or contact Cassie Sterrett at nmhay@yahoo.com or 575-626-1688, or Justin Boswell at 575-840-9908 or juboswel@yahoo.com. For a copy of the registration form, contact Sterrett or visit http://www.nmhay.com. Booth space is still available. Marsalis can be contacted at 505-865-7340 or marsalis@nmsu.edu.