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Extension News Advance Grazing School

Thirty area agriculture producers gathered in the Bear’s Club room at ConnXion Entertainment in Mtn. Grove, April 14, 2014 for an Advanced Grazing School that featured information on multi-species grazing, soil fertility, and pasture conversion to reduce fescue toxicity.

Presenters Mark Kennedy and Darrel Franson provided information about their own operations and experiences; Crop Production Specialist Gene Stevens with the MU Delta Research Center and State Beef Specialist Justin Sexten offered additional,  research-based information from the perspective of MU experts.

Kennedy, who manages an operation in Houston, Mo, covered the basics on multi-species grazing, offering convincing evidence that simultaneously grazing cattle along with sheep and/or goats can be beneficial for management of both animals and pastures.

A beef producer from Mt.Vernon, Franson testified to the improvements he has made with his herd in daily gains, health, and reproduction through pasture conversion to novel-endophyte fescue rather than the traditional Kentucky-31 variety that is common to the Wright County area.

“The endophyte is a fungus that makes the Kentucky-31 such a hardy variety. In fact, it’s just plain hard to kill because of it,” said Denis Turner, an area producer who helped organize the annual school. “Unfortunately that hardiness comes at a cost. The fungus in that traditional variety produces a poison that is harmful to grazing animals, causing producers to lose profit because of inefficient gains, poor health, and reduced reproduction.”

Franson’s work in renovating pastures encouraged those in the crowd that the initial cost of converting pastures to the friendly-endophyte fescue would be recovered through increased profits in two years or less.

Such positive results created interest among producers attending the class, including Jim Culver, who operates a dairy in Wright County.

“I’ve got 30 or 40 acres that are rough enough you don’t want to keep running machinery over them,” said Culver. “Establishing a permanent pasture base on those acres that can offer that kind of results will be worth the investment.”

State Beef Specialist Justin Sexten reinforced Franson’s presentation with research from the University of Missouri, explaining that the toxins in Kentucky-31 fescue are greatest in spring and fall growth, with the highest concentration in the seedheads of the plants. In addition, Sexten stressed that greater applications of nitrogen fertilizer further increase the amount of toxins.

Stevens, a research scientist for the University of Missouri, presented the results of an eight-year study about strategies for raising soil fertility. According to Stevens, producers who utilize soil testing often misunderstand the results of that testing.

“People are often disappointed when their phosphorus and potassium levels don’t come up significantly after one application,” explained Wright County Extension Specialist Ted Probert. “Soil test results are recommendations that yield results based on yearly applications over a period of about eight years.”

The advanced grazing school is hosted annually in cooperation between the Texas and Wright County MU Extension and, Soil and Water Conservation Districts.. The presentations from the school will be posted on the Wright County Extension website: http://extension.missouri.edu.

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