Missouri Grazing Group Shares Ideas, Learns
An NCR-SARE project in Missouri is teaching pasture budgeting techniques designed to match beef cattle nutrient requirements to the forage system while strategically managing input costs, pasture quality, and carrying capacity. As part of the project, four core beef producer groups are being developed in cooperation with state and regional Extension specialists. This news feature highlights the first meeting of the North Missouri Grazing Group at Jonnie Hubach’s farm, located in northeastern Andrew County.
To read more about the related NCR-SARE Research and Education project, visit the MySARE online reporting site here.
Source: Missouri Farmer Today
WHITESVILLE — A warm Northwest Missouri wind blew over the grassy hills of Jonnie Hubach’s farm, located in northeastern Andrew County near here.
About 30 beef producers were gathered for the first meeting of the North Missouri Grazing Group.
The meeting started in the late morning on an early June day, but the sun’s heat was bearing down, making spots in the shade preferable. The warmth symbolized the drought concerns already creeping into producers’ minds.
The grazing group provides an opportunity for producers to share and discuss ideas for managing their herds and pastures.
The University of Missouri Extension and the NRCS provided a joint effort to start the grazing group. Attendees could ask questions and share their successes and setbacks using different strategies.
Jim Humphrey, MU Extension livestock specialist, says a co-worker started a grazing group in the Sedalia-Warsaw area about a year ago. He and other organizers have been talking about and planning a grazing group in Northern Missouri for about a year.
Humphrey believes producers can benefit from pooling their practical experiences. The talks also can supplement the university’s field research.
He also says the grazing meetings can be a nice networking opportunity and was glad to see many producers attend the first meeting.
“I’m really pleased with the attendance,” Humphrey says.
Organizers plan to rotate future meetings at the group members’ farms.
Hubach says he was chosen as the first host because MU Extension officials know him from doing field research at his farm.
Hubach runs an Angus cow-calf operation. He has seven rotational-grazing systems.
Due to dry conditions, he has switched from rotating every two weeks to rotating every 30 days.
“It’s going to get serious here in about a month if we don’t get some rain,” Hubach says.
Northwest Missouri received a half-inch to an inch of rain on June 11, the week after the meeting, but the dry stretch in the spring has producers concerned with summer still on the horizon.
“No rain in May’s a lot different than no rain in July,” says Justin Sexten, Extension beef nutrition specialist.
He advises producers to prepare now in case there is an extended drought this summer.
Sexten says this may mean accessing more hay. He adds the cheapest time to buy feed usually is during the Missouri State Fair in August.
Sexten also suggested weaning calves earlier as a way to combat nutrient scarcity during drought. Calves develop a functional rumen after 60 days, and they can be weaned any time after that, Sexten says.
“Early weaning is reducing nutrient demand (on the cows),” he says.
The early weaned calves still have to be fed, but the calves’ digestive systems are “extremely efficient” making the most out of what nutrients are available, Sexten says.
The group also discussed ways to reduce the number of days each year they have to feed hay.
Sexten says it can be beneficial “if you can get to 45-60 days, down from 120 to 150, by stockpiling.”
Hubach has been working to rely more on stockpiled forage.
“We don’t feed as much hay as we used to,” he says. “We do stockpile quite a bit of grass in the fall.”
The producers discussed a wide variety of other topics, including prioritizing which cattle to sell off first when that is necessary and the importance of testing silage for nitrates.
Humphrey says another key issue facing producers is former pasture ground that producers used to rent is no longer available due to rising crop prices.
“This year, we know there’s a lot of forage ground that’s being converted to crop ground,” he notes.
Sexten sees the shortage of available pasture ground as well.
“The opportunity to rent additional pasture is probably zero, right?” he says.
But, the opportunity to share ideas and ways to cope with challenges exists for producers in the area through the grazing group.
Whatever issues are facing the beef producers, organizers hope this group will give them a chance to learn from each other and overcome the obstacles with their combined knowledge and experience.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) LNC09-309, Using Grazing Wedges to Match Beef Cattle Nutrient Need with Pasture Resources while Reducing Feed and Fertility Costs .