Blogging about the Establishment of a Manage Intensive Grazing Farm in Missouri that is Environmentally Friendly

2013 Annual Report for FNC12-887

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $7,482.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Blogging about the Establishment of a Manage Intensive Grazing Farm in Missouri that is Environmentally Friendly


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. However, as a note, I think that most farmers who are new to apps, social media, and technology would not be successful at conveying information using current trendy technology. Opening accounts of social media is fairly simple. Using those programs is also very simple. However, it is the networking of those accounts and utilizing “trending words,” apps, sitmaps, bots, etc that I found very difficult. If a farmer or agriculture corporation wanted to reach certain target audiences they will have to hire consultants and or interns to establish their startup. The fact is that while farmers use a lot of different technology to plant crops and communicate with customers [they may not have the experience necessary for effectively distributing that information, however, effective [farmers as] social media users are on a different level. I was able to increase my audience and exposure explaining my good environmental practices but it wasn’t to the level I expected. 

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: I contracted to have planted several hundred white pine seedlings to serve as a riparian buffer [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. 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. 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. 

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. This was a difficult task for a farmer who does not own a drill. I would first like to mention that the weather did not make this task feasible. This year’s corn was planted late nationally due to the weather. I was not able to plant the corn until June as my bottom ground was still wet. This prohibited the planting of the soybeans. I was able to get the corn planted by modifying the Great Plains pasture seeder. While this seeder is set up for 7.5 inch rows, I took very wide duct tape and covered over every other seed opening. This set it up for 15 inch rows. The next difficult part was establishing the seeding rate. I wanted the grazing corn to resemble Johnson grass and look less like corn in perfect rows. However, the seeder really doesn’t have a corn setting so I had to conduct some online research and consult with some agronomists to determine the rate. Not fully understanding seed count per acre and all the different variations for corn did not make the task any easier. However, deer hunters have used this same planter for food plots and posted their settings online that I used for a base. While the seeder dispensed seed at different spacing I found that when the corn was spaced 8-12 inch apart I got my ideal results. I planted two types of grazing corn, Baldaridge Amaizing Graze and Master Graze. Since I did not use the proper equipment and did not get consistent plant spacing I chose not to record any data on forage production as it would have been unscientific. I turned out 19 head of stockers that were not preconditioned that weighed 472 lbs pre 3% shrink. The cattle grazed on 5 acres of corn, 3 acres of a chicory clover mix and had open access to a mineral tub, some brush in the timber and were given about 200 lbs of cattle feed that was given to help calm them. These calves were very wild and would run when they saw me coming on the golf cart. I needed to supplement them as I was worried I would never be able to corral them otherwise. After 15 days the cattle gained 1.886 lbs. a day per head. 

While I have many perennial forages planted I was not able to graze them for many reasons. The main reason is that I had my farm planted in beans prior to establishing my perennial forages. The reason I had the farm planted in beans was so I could remove all the toxic fescue. The farmer I rented my farm to did not harvest the beans until late November. This is well past fall planting time for fescue so I had to do a spring planting. It is not suggested or recommended to graze newly established pastures with spring plantings. 

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