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Citizens of Lee County “What are your needs?”

Lee County Grassroots Needs Assessment

I would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to let us know your needs so we can better satisfy the needs of Lee County.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System wants your help to plan programs that address county needs. Please take about 10 minutes to complete the following planning questions.

You will not be identified unless you give us your contact information at the end of the survey. Your answers will be combined with other stakeholders’ answers. Results will be used to create a program plan for the county. We certainly appreciate and value your input; however, your participation in this survey is optional.

You may stop at any point in the survey, and you may skip questions that you do not want to answer. If you have questions or concerns regarding the survey, please contact your county Extension office.

Tara Barr County Extension Coordinator
334-749-3353

Extending the Grazing Season

cow and calf
Emily Thompson/Images by Emily

Extending the grazing season can improve cattle operations. This saves producers time and money invested in the operation. Whether it is as simple as dividing a pasture into two different paddocks or implementing a more complex system, farmers should consider implementing improved grazing management strategies to help the grazing season.

Dr. Kim Mullenix, an Alabama Extension beef cattle specialist, said there are a few keys to remember for extending the grazing season.

“Pastures must have a time of rest and recovery in order to have a successful grazing plan,” said Mullenix. “Using an improved grazing method has the potential to help extend the number of grazing days.

While there are many grazing options, no one method will fit every operation. Grazing methods can range in difficulty as well as labor required.

Rotational Stocking

Rotational stocking is where animals are placed in a given pasture and then moved to another on a rotational basis. This method can improve the forages available for producers by giving a pasture a time of rest. A farmer can choose how many paddocks they want to manage. Keeping in mind the more paddocks the more labor is required to manage them.

Deferred Grazing

Deferred grazing, or stockpiling forage, is a method proven to help producers gain more grazing days before having to feed hay. Using this method can potentially extend the number of grazing days anywhere from 30 to 60 days or longer depending on the forage available.

Limit Grazing

Limit grazing is another way to provide high-quality forage as a supplement to lower-quality hay during the winter months. Here animals are allowed periodic access to a high-quality pasture and then returned to a hay feeding area. The method greatly increases the efficiency and utilization of high-quality forages.

Creep Grazing

Creep grazing allows young nursing animals access to higher-quality forage that is not accessible to lactating animals. Access to these paddocks can be provided through a creep gate or an opening in between the hay feeding area and high-quality pasture. Research shows increased daily gains of 0.5 to 0.75 pounds per day in calves grazing using this method.

For more information on extending the grazing season visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.

Growing Fruits and Vegetables in Alabama

harvested salad greens and carrots in a wheelbarrow

It’s officially spring time in the South, which means it’s beautiful outside and the ideal season to start growing your favorite fruits and vegetables. Whether you’re dreaming of starting your very own home garden and are not sure where to begin or have been tending for years, we’ve got benefits, helpful tips and nutritional information for any home grower.

The Benefits

Often times, people will ask why they should start their very own garden. “There’s no reason to not start your own garden, it can only provide positive benefits,” said Hunter McBrayer, an urban regional Extension agent in home grounds, gardens and pests with Alabama Extension. Moreover, home gardening can also be a very natural way for people to relax and get in touch with nature. “It can be very therapeutic and rewarding to start a seed in the ground and watch it grow,” McBrayer said.

Another positive benefit of growing your own fruits and vegetables is that you know exactly where your food is coming from. This includes knowing which fertilizer and pesticides are being used around your food. Lastly, when you grow your own fruits and vegetables, you can grow them to the size specifically to your liking.

Nutritional Information

When you’re growing crops in your backyard, the accessibility to eat them becomes much easier. Everyone knows that they need to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets, but some people are unfamiliar with the nutritional benefits they provide.

“Fruits and vegetables are low in fat, low in sodium and low in calories,” said Dr. Tamara Warren, an urban human nutrition, diet and health specialist with Alabama Extension. “Other nutritional benefits include vitamins, folic acid and anti-cancer agents.”

Another thing to keep in mind when eating fruits and vegetables is to incorporate a variety of different options on your plate. It is also recommended to eat fruits and vegetables once a day and at least three times a week. A recommended serving is based on age, gender and physical activity. The ChooseMyPlate.gov is a good resource for this information.

garden

Helpful Tips

When it comes to growing fruits and vegetables, people often have a hard time understanding whether or not they want to grow organically. Conventional growing can be much easier than growing organically. “Home growers can grow organically, but it may be difficult to control certain pests,” McBrayer said.  Conventional or organic, people will still receive the same nutritional benefits provided from fruits and veggies.

McBrayer suggested that anyone interested in home gardening should not hesitate to ask him any questions. “I try to work with everyone no matter if they have two acres or a small potted plant,” McBrayer said.

Reading and Understanding Food Labels

fruits and vegetables displayed in a grocery store

When it comes to grocery shopping today and maintaining general health, it has become increasingly difficult to navigate the complicated ingredients lists on food labels. The seemingly unlimited amount of ingredients one can encounter on a trip to the store can leave shoppers feeling overwhelmed and confused about how to make healthy decisions.

A good place to start is to debunk a traditional thought when it comes to food labels, ingredients and additives.

The common rule among those attempting to eliminate unnecessary additives to their diets is “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it”. However, this can sometimes be misleading.

Christina Levert, a registered dietician and regional Extension agent in Human Nutrition Diet and Health with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System,  offers a simple example, “If the make up of a raw apple was listed on an ‘ingredient list,’ it would contain the words ‘pantothenic acid’ and ‘pyridoxine’. These are naturally occurring B vitamins and obviously should not be avoided simply because we cannot pronounce them.”

Another issue shoppers face is the explosion of fat-free, low-fat, low calorie or other claims on packaging to entice the health-conscious buyer.

While these altered foods would ideally offer all of the good and none of the bad, Levert warns, “Often, when a food is altered to become fat-free or low-fat, another ingredient is added to maintain taste and quality of the food. Sometimes this is in the form of additional sugar or sodium.”

Just as the “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it rule” can be broken when appropriate, the same can be said for foods that do not have any of the fat-free, low-fat or low calorie labels.

When asked to advise consumers on something that is most often overlooked on food labels, Levert said, “People often overlook the amount of sodium and added sugars. These aren’t always listed in the ingredients lists using the names we are familiar with.” She said, “added sugar may sometimes be listed as honey, high fructose corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice or barley malt syrup, to name a few.”

So, is there any true rule consumers can easily follow to ensure they avoid unwanted ingredients? Levert says to eat as much fresh food as you can. A simple alternative to canned or packaged foods is to opt for frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen items give you the ability to save food longer than traditional fresh foods without compromising any health benefits. She also advises cutting  back convenience foods to maximize good ingredients and minimize bad.

In an increasingly fast-paced world, it becomes difficult to monitor all aspects of life. With a few small steps such as sticking to the freshest food options offered, consumers can eliminate at least some of the damaging parts of processed food, leading to healthier lives now and in the long term.

Get Back to Basics with Beef Basics

herd of angus beef cattle in the field

Cattle are big business in Alabama with a value of $2.5 billion. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s new iBook, “Beef Basics,” will help the states cattle producers boost their bottom line. An Alabama Extension animal scientist calls “Beef Basics” an exciting new tool for Alabama cattle producers.

“The Beef Basics iBook is a great resource that producers, supporters and anyone connected to the cattle industry can use to brush up on their cattle knowledge,” said Dr. Kim Mullenix, an Alabama Extension beef specialist.

Now available for purchase in the Apple iTunes store, “Beef Basics” is the first iBook devoted to beef cattle production.

Beef Basics Content

  • Forages in the Southeast
  • Grazing Management and Methods
  • Nutrition Basics
  • Stored Forages and Supplementation
  • Managing Herd Health
  • Breeding and Genetics

The iBook format allows “Beef Basics” to include videos and interactive graphics along with the comprehensive text and photos.

Beef Basics Featured Videos and Interactive Graphics

  • Using a Grazing Stick
  • Forages as High Functioning Factories
  • Collecting a Hay Sample
  • Forages as the Basis of Nutrition
  • Hay Storage Methods
  • Giving Injections to Cattle
  • Frame Scoring Cattle

“Almost every farmer has a smartphone or a tablet,” said Mullenix, who is also an assistant professor of animal science at Auburn University. “The iBook format puts the information they need in their hands no matter where they are on the farm.”

“Beef Basics” costs $9.99 and can be viewed on iPads, iPhones and Mac computers. Want to know more before you buy? iTunes will allow users to download a sample of the book.

Mullenix said that iBook is an excellent companion to Alabama Extension’s new free online course of the same name.

Mullenix along with a team of Alabama Extension animal science professionals created both the iBook and the online course to support the state’s growing cattle industry.

“Our primary goal is for producers to improve their overall management skills and understanding of the beef industry and help them improve their operation’s bottom line.

The Beef Basics Online Course is a self-paced, eight-week online course that allows producers to watch lessons on beef cattle management topics, take an interactive quiz following each section and receive a certificate of completion at the end.

For more information about the Beef Basics course or iBook, visit Alabama Extension’s Beef Systems website at http://www.aces.edu/go/632 .

beef basics