In today's economy, it's not a question of being able to afford more training to better manage livestock operations, said a forage expert with Texas AgriLife Research.

"It's a matter of not being able to afford not to," said Dr. Monte Rouquette, AgriLife Research scientist.

The 2009 Overton Pasture and Management Workshops can provide just such training for both inexperienced and experienced ranchers, he said. There are still openings for the workshops, which are scheduled March 24-26 and March 31-April 2. The three-day workshops are designed to help fine tune pasture-livestock operations to reduce costs of inputs and increase returns. It is of particular value for novice ranchers, who often report that they learn to recoup the $350 enrollment fee several times over in the first morning.

"We're all experiencing financial insecurity in these times," Rouquette said. "But in the pasture-beef industry, not knowing how to optimize input costs such as fertilizer can lead to some very costly mistakes.

"I wish we could teach ranchers how to do this with a simple publication, but the truth is there are lots of inter-related factors to consider that vary from one operation to the next. We have to teach them some basic science about soils, grass management, herd selection and size and so on, for them to be able to fine tune their own operations."

And though these basic principles are accessible to anyone who wants to learn, they can't be taught in a single afternoon, he said.

Instructors are scientists and educators with Texas AgriLife Research, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M University. All hold doctorate degrees related to their area of instruction. The courses are held at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton in East Texas.

The three-day course consists of time split between the classroom and instruction in the field. In-field demonstrations cover all aspects of running a beef operation, from establishing forages and maintaining high-quality pastures, calibrating sprayers, taking soil samples, castrating and vaccinating cattle, and dehorning calves, said Vanessa Corriher, AgriLife Extension forage specialist and another course instructor.

Also included will be training on writing a business plan for a ranch, keeping proper records, choosing the appropriate forage species, understanding soil fertility, establishing forage systems that minimize winter feeding costs, setting correct stocking rates, choosing the right cattle breeds, promoting good animal health and marketing cattle, said Dr. Greg Clary, AgriLife Extension economist.

A full agenda can be found at http://overton.tamu.edu/grazingschool.htm.

To register or for more information, contact Jennifer Lloyd at 903-834-6191 or by e-mail: at agnews.tamu.edu.