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With slim margins in livestock and crops, farmers are looking for ways to trim costs and add value to their products. The combination of grazing and direct marketing is helping farmers accomplish those goals.

The North Central Graziers 2017 Grazing Conference, set for Saturday, March 11, at Meadowview Golf Club, Owen, will feature practical information for beginning, experienced and aspiring farmers to expand their knowledge of grazing and opportunities for more profitable farms. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and the conference will wrap-up around 3 p.m.

The 2017 conference features Blaine and Blake Hitzfield of Seven Sons Family Farms in Roanoke, Indiana. The farm previously operated as a conventional row crop and confinement hog operation in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 2000, the Hitzfield family began the transition to a multi-species, pasture-based grazing and direct marketing operation. Today, the family raises beef, pork and poultry for thousands of dedicated customers.

The Hitzfield brothers will share three keys for building an effective farm team, how to maximize profit per acre with stacked enterprises and how to overcome the top barrier to direct marketing. While the Hitzfields enjoy sharing their story with numerous consumer and producer groups, this will be their first Wisconsin audience.

Other speakers include Clark County Crops and Soils Agent Richard Halopka, who will explain the role of manure plays in nutrient considerations for pasture-based farms. Bill Kolodziej, Marathon County Grazing Specialist, will share information on opportunities for grazing public lands. The day will wrap-up with a farmer panel who will lead discussion on improving pastures with legumes and high energy grasses.

The North Central Graziers 2017 Grazing Conference is made possible through a grant from the National Grazing Lands Coalition and the support of the Taylor County Land Conservation Department, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Grassfed Beef Cooperative and Organic Valley Cooperative. Thanks to these organizations, registration is free for farmers who register by March 1. A $10 donation is requested for agribusiness representatives and those registering after March 1 to help cover the cost of lunch.

Participants can register by phone or online with the Taylor County Land Conservation Department. An online registration form is also available by visiting the department’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/taylorcolcd. Phone registrations can be taken during office hours, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., by calling 715-748-1469.

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