September 19, 2018
By Debra Davis
Ben Maples, an eighth generation farmer from Limestone County, won the Federation's inaugural Forage Spokesperson contest.
Ben Maples believes in making the most of forage on his family’s registered Angus farm in Elkmont. An eighth-generation farmer, he knows counting costs and measuring results are key to keeping the farm around for the next generation.
A presentation on how forage fits into his farming operation was something new for Maples, who is Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers committee chairman. However, his effort won first place in the Federation’s inaugural Forage Spokesperson Contest.
“I enjoyed the contest,” Maples said. “It made me take another look at how we handle our operation and made me rethink things in a different manner.”
During the Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference in August, Maples and other contestants gave 15-minute presentations emphasizing how forage management contributes to their farm objectives and marketing. Presentations were followed by a Q&A session with judges and audience members.
Monroe County’s Tim Tucker was runner-up in the contest, and Andy Sumners of Marshall County received honorable mention.
“Knowing how much a forage program costs per acre, what it costs per pound to produce calves, and what the break-even sale price is for cattle are some of the key factors in forage production,” Maples said.
In addition to an overview of his forage and cattle businesses, Maples’ presentation emphasized the significance of forage costs in a livestock operation. Controlling costs is especially important during tough marketing times, he said.
As the state winner, Maples won free registration, transportation and lodging for the American Forage and Grassland Council Forage Spokesperson Contest in St. Louis, Missouri. The contest will be in January and attracts entrants throughout the country.
Judges for the Alabama contest were Federation State Hay & Forage Committee Chairman Steve Stroud; Dr. Leanne Dillard, Alabama Cooperative State Extension Forage Specialist; and David Allen, Alabama Farmers Cooperative Livestock Feed Product Specialist.
They scored contestants on innovation, practical application of sound principles, communication skills and enthusiasm.
Stroud said the experience was interesting and educational.
“It was tough to be a judge,” he said. “I especially liked the Q&A portion of the contest because everyone was really interested in the different presentations. There were a lot of questions. It was a great learning experience for me and for the audience members, too.”
Over 4 million acres are devoted to forage production in Alabama, eclipsing all other crops combined.
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