A man of vision

Written by Chuck Lay on .

Former MFA President Bud Frew dies at 77

Standing at the lectern during the kickoff meeting in 1997 just months before he retired, B.L. Frew told those assembled that honesty and integrity are the keystones of MFA Incorporated. “I don’t want this organization to ever lose that,” he said. “Remember who owns you,” he boomed into the microphone to the assembled group for the final time as president and CEO.

“It’s been a real ride,” he said. “But I’ve gotten more from the organization than it’s gotten from me. The quality of the employees, the quality of the managers, the support, dedication and the hard work. Never in my whole time have I asked anything that you haven’t done and done well.

“Always remember,” he said, “what’s good for the company, not what’s good for me, for my division, for my area. It’s what’s good for the company. I’ve always tried to search out what is right, to do what is right and try to make a difference. If you’ll continue to do that, the organization will continue to shine.”

He died Sept. 25, 2011, at the age of 77. B.L. (always known as Bud) Frew was president and CEO of MFA Incorporated from 1985 to Jan. 31, 1998. He leaves behind his wife, Kit, and children, Scott Frew and Suzette Marsch in addition to his grandchildren.

Current MFA President and CEO Bill Streeter said

Recognizing the cooperative spirit

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

The strength of a cooperative like MFA Incorporated is through its bonds to agriculture, farmers and the industry that supports them. MFA has spent its long history developing a system that gets farmers what they need when they need it. From the beginning, working with locally owned, independent cooperatives has been an important part of that process.
Local cooperatives that align themselves with MFA are a employing one of the key principles of cooperative business—working with other cooperatives to benefit the membership.

“We’re proud to partner with MFA,” said Gary Heldt, manager of Cooperative Association #130 at Rhineland, Mo. “We call ourselves MFA, we wear the brand—there is an MFA shield on our employees’ shirts.”

Heldt pointed out that cooperation between local cooperatives like Rhineland and regional cooperatives like MFA Incorporated provides mutual benefits. For Rhineland Cooperative Association #130, there is access to the buying power that MFA Incorporated brings in procuring plant foods and crop protection products, merchandising grain and acquiring other goods and services. MFA Incorporated benefits from the relationship because the committed purchasing from local cooperatives helps allow for even more bargaining power in the marketplace.

“Aside from the products we carry, one of the things that we can do is leverage our local presence with the expertise in agronomy or nutrition from MFA’s technical staff,” said Heldt. “It’s a strong combination; it’s the kind of cooperation that benefits all of our members through market access and pricing.”

Affiliated local cooperatives in the MFA system each have a unique and rich history of farmers working together to establish a cooperative presence in their neighborhood. MFA Incorporated is helping celebrate that history by noting significant anniversaries. Twelve local affiliates will have celebrated their 90th anniversary by year’s end. We will highlight more in coming years.

Congratulations to:
Farmers Exchange of Birch Tree Cooperative Association No. 213, Birch Tree, Mo.
Bolivar Farmers Exchange, Bolivar, Mo.
Dallas County Farmers Exchange No. 177, Buffalo, Mo.
Producers Grain Company, El Dorado Springs, Mo.
Farmers Produce Exchange of Lebanon, Lebanon, Mo.
Producers Exchange No. 84, Lincoln, Mo.
Lockwood Farmers Exchange, Lockwood, Mo.
Lohman Producers Exchange, Inc., Lohman, Mo.
Farmers Elevator & Produce Company No. 53, Memphis, Mo.
Cooperative Association No. 130, Rhineland, Mo.
Cooperative Association No. 2 of Washington, Washington, Mo.
Cooperative Association No. 86, Aurora, Mo.

The Seven Principles of a Cooperative

1. Voluntary and open membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
2. Democratic member control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3. Member economic participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and independence
Cooperatives are autonomous organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5. Education, training and information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.
7. Concern for community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

Get goat nutrition right

Written by Dr. Jim White on .

The great goat rush slowed last year with numbers in the Midwest reaching a plateau of sorts. In Missouri goat inventory hit about 92,300 head in 2011, down a bit from the year before. Of those, meat goats accounted for some 80,000 head and milk goats, 11,000 head. Throw in a few angora and you match the total. But prices still show demand, and so we should revisit some of the challenges you’ll find in feeding small ruminants.
Abrupt Ration Changes

One recurring cause of health problems in small ruminants is the abrupt change in amounts, ratios or ingredients of rations. By nature, goats consume a wide variety of forages and browse. Goats have faster metabolisms than cattle, and they tend to eat more often than cattle. Therefore, in theory, a large concentrate meal once or twice daily is unnatural and makes smaller ruminants more susceptible to metabolic diseases. However, in practice I see less incidence of bloat and founder in goats than I see with cattle. Any ruminant is sensitive to ration changes—because any ruminant can change intake faster than the rumen microbial population can change. Thus, we need to change rations no faster than the rumen microflora can change.

A rapid shift to a high-grain ration may cause enterotoxemia, cause animals to refuse feed, or induce diarrhea or other digestive upset. As a rough rule, one can increase grain feeding by 5 percent a day.

Enterotoxemia, or overeating disease, is one of the most commonly occurring and most costly diseases. Enterotoxemia is best prevented by making ration changes slowly and gradually. While toxins produced from bacteria that are inherent to the ruminant digestive tract cause the disease, the disease is associated with high concentrate feeding and abrupt dietary changes. Changes in the rumen environment cause type C and D to reproduce rapidly. When this happens, the bugs “bloom”. Often, the faster growing, better-doing, most aggressive eating animals are affected. Hence the name “overeating disease.” In addition to making ration changes slowly, you should follow the vaccination schedule of the herd veterinarian.

While forages often provide the base for small ruminant production systems, hay and pasture quality and quantity will vary greatly from year to year and even from field to field. Forage species, fertilization program, dates of harvest and storage method have a great influence on forage quality. It is nearly always advisable to test conserved forages to determine the nutrient content. Grass samples will range from 4 percent protein to 24 percent. TDN can vary from 25 percent to 75 percent. Given the variability, it is a shot in the dark to develop supplementation programs without forage analyses.

Accumulation occurs in forages when the uptake of soil nitrates continues even as plant photosynthesis, carbohydrate and protein synthesis cease. Factors that contribute to the accumulation of nitrates in plants include drought, frost, low light intensities, low temperatures, soil nutrient deficiencies, excess nitrogen fertilization and some plant diseases. Nitrates will accumulate to varying levels within the plant with the lower stalk containing the highest concentrations. When conditions exist that may lead to accumulations of nitrates in forages, forages should be tested for nitrate concentrations. Testing should be performed before the first use of the forage to avoid potential problems. Plants use the nitrate as a nitrogen source, so plants will always have some nitrates. The goal is to ensure that there are not too many nitrates. Nitrates in the entire diet lower that 0.4 percent are considered safe.

Lack of a proper mineral/vitamin supplementation program is a fundamental challenge. Salt, or sodium chloride, is still offered as the only mineral supplement in countless situations. The mineral content of forages varies greatly by season, by year and area. Forages will always be short of iodine and sodium. They will likely be short in selenium, copper and zinc. In dormant forages, phosphorous will be short, and in early growth forage will be magnesium-short. A complete mineral is a good means of providing vitamins A, D and E. Offering white salt as the only source of mineral supplementation tends to make a herd susceptible to nutritional deficiencies. These nutritional deficiencies are often subclinical; they tend to go unnoticed and unrectified.

Water Belly
Mineral deposits form in the urinary tract and are referred to as uroliths or urinary calculi. These deposits occur in all animals. But, a blockage of urine flow occurs most often in wethers and to a lesser degree, intact males. The blockage and subsequent build up of urine will cause the animal to strain and gaze skyward. The bladder might burst, aside from being unpleasant and fatal for the animal, this dents your profitability. The condition is more common in feedlot conditions where the phosphorous level is high while salt and calcium levels are low. In range conditions, the situation is common where the silica content of the diet is high. Using a balanced ration, ensuring adequate water and using a balanced goat feed will help prevent incidence of urinary calculi.

Providing a continuous supply of fresh, clean water and adequate trough space will help assure performance and productivity. Many factors influence an animal’s water intake: stage of production, environmental temperature, salt consumption and ration moisture content. Figure on 0.75 to 1.5 gallons of water daily per goat as a rough rule. Inadequate water intake will result in decreased dry matter intake, reduced ADG, increased susceptibility to disease and a general lack of thrift.

Precision pays

Written by TF staff on .

A recently released USDA Economic Research Service report shows that yield monitors are a first-step into precision farming and were quickly adopted by farmers. Complementing yield monitors with further investment in GPS systems, variable-rate applicators and other technology hasn’t been as rapid, but those technologies tend to result in higher yield. The study relied on data from 2001 through 2009, focusing on corn, soybeans, wheat. Some of the summary points from the study include:
•    Corn and soybean yields were significantly higher for yield monitor adopters than for non-adopters nationally. This yield differential for corn grew from 2001 to 2005.
•    Corn and soybean farmers using yield monitors had lower per-acre fuel expenses. Average per-acre fertilizer expenses were slightly higher for corn farmers that adopted yield monitors, but were lower for soybean farmers.
•    In the Corn Belt, GPS maps and variable-rate technologies were used on 24 and 16 percent respectively of corn in 2005, and 17 and 12 percent of soybean acres in 2006, but nationally the adoption rates for variable-rate technologies were only 12 percent for corn and 8 percent for soybeans.
•    Average fuel expenses were lower, per acre, for farmers using variable-rate technologies for corn and soybean fertilizer application, as were soybean fuel expenses for guidance systems adopters.
•    Adopters of GPS mapping and variable-rate fertilizer equipment had higher yields for both corn and soybeans.
•    Adoption of guidance systems, which notify farm equipment operators as to their exact field position, is showing a strong upward trend, with 35 percent of wheat producers using it by 2009.

Not a seed cap in sight

Written by Mitch Jayne on .

Looks like the drought of farmer-presidents will persist

With the presidential election coming around all too soon, candidates are darting around like trout fry in shoal water. Being from Missouri, I am hoping one of them will Show Me a shiny side I can pick out and identify with. So far, if I were fishing for a farm-raised specimen, I’m out of luck.

Not for the first time, I should add. Out of 44 presidents, only five had any farming history, and George Washington, our first, called himself a “planter,” not a farmer. Meaning I guess that he didn’t mind planting cotton, but was way too busy to pick it, what with the British and all.
James Madison was the next one to farm, and he really worked at it, harvest and all, until the neighbors pestered him into politics. They said a land this big needed somebody who remembered it was mostly dirt, making him qualified to run the place.

We had to wait a bunch of years for the next farm-raised president, U.S. Grant, who, like Washington, only got the job because of his war sense, which unlike George’s didn’t help him much. He was noted for appreciating corn more than planting it.

The country had to wait a long time for another president who had actually put a plow in the ground; Harry Truman who came home from WWI to help his daddy farm for ten years before he opted for making a living instead. One of the many things Harry is remembered for was his plain speech, (probably learned from his years of reasoning with mules) and his farmer-direct way of dealing with first one crisis then another.

Washington D.C. held few surprises for a man accustomed to Missouri weather.

By the time we got to Jimmy Carter, our affable peanut farmer from Georgia, the country was beyond using his kind of expertise. Farming itself had to be explained to city children who thought cows were milk machines on Sesame Street, soybeans were grown in the land of Soy (where everyone has three eyes), and all vegetables, including corn, came from California, grown by a green giant.

Jimmy didn’t stand a chance. I firmly believe it’s because he refused to go on TV wearing a peanut suit, top hat and a monocle and twirling his cane, which would have impressed everybody. A real president in the show (and tell) biz.

Meanwhile, I’d still like to try another farmer. They deal with basic values, and are experienced with money problems. They are used to fence mending and have learned to cope with bureaucratic thinking and delays. They understand both pig and bull-headedness, and will (best of all) listen to advice when it's honest.

And it wouldn’t hurt a bit if, like George Washington, they’d take the time to listen to the hounds now and then. It would be handy to have critters around you who kept to the trail and mainly told you the truth.

From November 2007. Mitch Jayne 1928-2010 was a celebrated Ozark author and long-time contributor to Today’s Farmer. We reprint this in his honor.


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