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Progressive paddocks

Expertise in the field, on the farm highlight MFA’s Forage Tour

Tom Spriggs was planting native grasses “before it was cool.”

That’s how Landry Jones, MFA conservation grazing specialist, described the host of the 2023 Forage Tour, held June 15 on Spriggs’ farm in Marshfield, Mo.

“I started in 1982 on a small field that was not productive,” Spriggs explained. “Each year, I would plant a few more acres in native grass. Pretty soon, those three acres become 30.”

Spriggs continues to improve and build on his plan to manage the farm’s cool-season and native warm-season grasses. He now has about 70 acres in native grasses to supplement his cattle operation with plans to establish more this year.

“My goal is to have about 25-30% of warm-season grasses in the pastures I use for the cattle,” Spriggs said.

Before visiting Spriggs’ farm, attendees at last year’s Forage Tour gathered at the Marshfield Community Center for presentations that included Ryan Lock, former University of Missouri

Extension specialist in forage and livestock systems, who discussed PaddockTrac, an innovative way to measure and monitor forage production.

“If you are not measuring, you can’t manage,” Lock said.

Developed by MU, PaddockTrac uses a patented method of collecting forage data with sensors that attach to an ATV or UTV and collect data as the producer drives through the pasture.

23TrialSummaryData is uploaded to MU’s Grazing Wedge cloud-based server, where producers can get reliable information within minutes—saving thousands of hours in manual forage measurement on the farm.

“With PaddockTrac, farmers can use their smartphones as a tool,” Lock added. “As the data is being collected in the field, they are able to capture the value of the forage.”

The morning’s sessions also featured Scott Pace of Parker McCrory Manufacturing Company in Kansas City, Mo., who offered insights into the future of fencing with Parmak products.

“Since 1921, the company has been on the leading edge of electric fencing,” Pace said. “We support farmers and ranchers around the globe with electric chargers, wire, polywire, polytape, rope, insulators and other accessories. You name it, we got it.”

After lunch, the attendees visited Spriggs’ farm to view his native grass pastures, to learn about several herbicide and fertilizer trials and to see a drone sprayer in action. The drone demonstration used water to show different types of spray coverage for multiple applications.

“Drone spraying is really taking off, no pun intended, especially in the range and pasture world due to all the small, hard-to-get-to fields that ground rigs just can’t cover,” Jones said.

The fertilizer and herbicide strip trials that were planted by Jones and MFA Range and Pasture Specialist David Moore are summarized in the chart on page 11. Among the take-home points of these studies, Jones said, were:
· Strips with Super U nitrogen, which features stabilizer technology, out-yielded forages fertilized with unprotected N.
· Treatments of DuraCor-impregnated fertilizer had a significant reduction in weeds compared to non-treated areas.
· The strip treated with Chaparral herbicide showed noticeable fescue seed head reduction.

“Chaparral is a great tool to reduce weed pressure as well as reduce fescue seed heads which, in turn, improve animal weight gain and reduce the toxic effect of fescue,” Moore said, adding that he works with producers who have had a great deal of success with the herbicide.

With Spriggs’ native grass fields, Jones and Moore discussed the increase in summer forage growth and the benefits it gives producers in hot weather and under drought conditions.

“On average, a cow on fescue gains about 1 pound per week versus about 3 pounds on native grasses,” Moore said.

For Spriggs, a combination of cool- and warm-season pastures are combined with fescue to supply a more constant supply of high-quality forage throughout the season. He said that his farm’s warm-season grasses get his cattle through the summer slump.

DavidMFA range and pasture specialist David Moore discusses the importance of using impregnated fertilizer for a one pass “weed-and-feed” program. In MFA trials, treatments of DuraCor-impregnated fertilizer significantly reduced weeds compared to non-treated areas.“I use about five different varieties on the different pastures,” he explained. “I have an area where I can move the cows from paddock to paddock every five days from June until the end of August.”

Native grasses are a little more difficult to establish, Moore cautioned, and may need a year or two before they can be grazed. Management is key. Native grass seedlings do not compete well with weeds, Moore said, and carefully timed rotational grazing is also required to maintain productive warm-season grass stands.

And while native grass seed and establishment practices can be costly, Jones pointed out that several cost-share opportunities are available to help defray those expenses for producers.

“Getting more native grasses on Missouri farms and ranches is a top priority for all conservation partners,” Jones said, “and they are putting their money where their mouth is.”

The 2024 Forage Tour is scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at the University of Missouri’s Research Farm in Linneus, Mo. Jones and Moore will showcase the latest range and pasture products and discuss technologies and management applications. For more information on the tour, native grass establishment and cost-share opportunities or other best practices in forage production, contact Landry Jones at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or David Moore at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Photo by Richard Gardner, bugwood.orgBEWARE OF THIS PERILOUS PLANT
One of the most toxic plants in pastures—perilla mint—is also one of the most prevalent across MFA territory. This spring, cattle deaths caused by perilla mint are on the rise, said David Moore, MFA range and pasture specialist, who warns producers to be on the lookout for this dangerous weed.

“Cattle typically leave it alone, preferring to eat more palatable forages, but they are consuming more this year because we are short on both grass and hay,” Moore said.  “Perilla mint is toxic when green, crunchy brown or in hay and silage. I’ve received several calls recently that cattle are eating the tops out of perilla mint and are soon found dead.”

This summer annual, also known as rattlesnake weed, purple mint and beefsteak plant, likes to live in shaded areas and along stream banks. Moore encourages producers to plan to spray areas where perilla mint has appeared in the past. He suggests using a boomless nozzle sprayer with 18-20 ounces per acre of DuraCor plus Astute Xtra in late April or early May to help prevent and control most perilla mint. An alternative is to use fertilizer impregnated with DuraCor.

“Spray into the edges of woodlines as well as the first 30 to 50 feet outside wooded areas,” he said. “It’s also a good idea to move cattle out of treated areas for two weeks.”

For more information and management tips, contact Moore at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or your local MFA livestock specialist or agronomist.

CLICK TO READ the full April 2024 Issue of Today's Farmer magazine.

 

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