There were several goals to this grant. These goals were identified as “problems” in the proposal. I shall address these problems in chronological order as I did in the proposal.
Problem 1: People are not always informed about where their food comes from and the process that happens in the production of food.
Proposed Solution 1: To establish a blog to inform the general public using social media. My results with social media were mixed depending on the platform that was used. Not much has changed since I have submitted my previous report in regards to the amount of visits. I have noticed that I gained more “hits” when I link to other websites and have them redirected to my site. For example if a farmer wanted to sell fresh produce they shouldn’t just post on craigslist what they have for sale with prices. They should give a small sampling and have their website listed below. This forces users to go to their website and therefore increase their rankings with google. I have noticed that more than half of my visitors are from redirected sites. Farmers should create profiles of their website name on different topic related sites that have forums and have a signature block that has their website listed. This was another method I used to direct more traffic to my blog. Counting on Google and other search browsers to list a farmer’s website in top rankings isn’t likely regardless of how relevant it may be. There are just too many different search word criteria’s these engines use. Farmer’s market venders should work together to collaboratively link to each other’s websites. I have made contact with likeminded bloggers and we are discussing terms to how we would link our relevant topics to increase our search engine relevance.
Problem 2: The general public also needs to understand that many farmers are using good environmental practices to protect the water ways.
Proposed Solution 2: No real change other than when my grazing paddock fences are up I have created a riparian buffer along the bottom of the hills. The fencing is contracted and should be completed in July. That is when I will conduct field visits. When I have farm tours I can highlight the Native Warm Season grasses that were planted. I had contracted to have planted several hundred white pine seedlings to serve as a riparian buffer also to highlight environmental practices. This was a complete waste of money. Do not plant white pines for this purpose. Between the deer and hard freezes I can’t find any surviving plants. I recommend cedars and or other shrubs.
Problem 3: The cost of feeding grain to cattle is getting more expensive due to increased demand for grain for human consumption. Cattle producers must be able to increase forage production with limited inputs to keep costs low.
Problem 4: Farmers lack knowledge in grazing warm season grasses.
Problem 5: Kentucky 31 (KY 31) fescue is the major forage used nationally but it is not suitable as a forage for stocker operations. It is a cool season grass that goes dormant in summer. Also, endophyte fungus hampers cattle gain. Endophyte as a fungus allows fescue to be extremely drought tolerant. While there are Endophyte free fescues they are not as persistent. Therefore novel fescues have been introduced that have a better strain of endophyte. While there are new varieties that have been released, not all of them have been tested in Missouri. Farmers will need to see the persistence of the varieties in upland and lower bottom pasture.
Problem 7: Lack of quality summer forages due to cool season grasses being dormant.
Problem 8: Grazing annuals such as alfalfa, grazing corn followed by soybeans (double cropping), and chicory are not widely used or known about in Missouri.
Potential Solutions for Problems 3, 4, 5, 7 & 8: Plant high quality perennial forages. As mentioned in my previous report I was able to plant all the forages mentioned with the exception of lespedeza. The seed dealers that I talked to about buying lespedeza did not have any seed available at planting time. Currently I have great germination of the following forages; Duramax Armor novel endophyte fescue, red clover, chicory, and white clover. I have good germination of BarOptima E34 novel endophyte fescue, Estancia novel endophyte fescue, Alfalfa, Reed Canary grass, and birdsfoot trefoil. I had poor germination of Barolox endophyte free and my warm season grasses in 2013. After talking with my extension agent and conducting some research I learned that warm season grasses are tough to establish in the first year. Reseeding may need to occur in 2014 of the NWSG. Of the novel endophyte fescues I had the best germination rate with Duramax Armor. I ended up sowing some more Duramax over the top of my Baroptima E34. This has resulted in a very good stand of fescue for the 2014 year. I learned that with spring sowings of fescue I don’t think it is possible to graze it in the first year. The grass is only 5 inches tall as of 4/14/14. The blades of the Duramax do seem to be wider and less fine looking than Baroptima at this stage. Estancia seemed to do OK in the bottom fields but it had a lot of competition with weeds. I had a lot of volunteer clover that came up after the beans. So much in fact that I was afraid it would choke out the fescue. I can tell that the improved varieties that were drilled in have larger leaves and are a couple of inches taller currently than the volunteer variety.
A triple crop grazing system could be possible in Missouri. My idea was to plant two types of quick maturing grazing corns, graze them at 45 days, plant soybeans and graze them 30 days before frost and drill in a winter cover crop. I have already reported that the cattle gained 1.88 pounds per day on grazing corn. I shared my results with one of the seed producers of the grazing corn. I recommended that they develop a setting for the Great Plains Drill commonly used to seed grasses and food plots. They were thrilled with the idea and stated they owned such a drill and would develop a pamphlet for future customers to use. I did plant a cover crop on my farm of annual cereal rye. I had it broadcasted with fertilizer and I couldn’t be happier with the germination rate. In two weeks it will be at its peak for baling for haylege or grazing. I have cow calf pairs that will be brought to the farm. After the cows graze the rye off I plan on planting beans to attempt to graze them.
Problem 6: A lack of available clean water. I had a lack of water systems on the farm.
Solution for Problem 6: I have either installed or contracted to have completed the remaining water systems for the farm.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
I have blogged about my farming adventures and the results from my grazing trials. I have also shared the results with the local NRCS and Extension agents. MFA sales representatives and some of their agronomists were very interested and impressed with the results. More outreach will be completed in 2014 with grazing tours and some videos created for youtube. I should be able to complete 100% of the plan in 2014 minus the death loss of the trees.