Building a healthy foundation

Braun farm uses MFA Shield Technology to help calves hit the ground running

Nestled in the hilly, historic area near Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Alvin and Janet Braun’s family farm has been carefully cultivated over five generations. The operation that was founded by Janet’s great-grandparents has now evolved into an expansive 1,100-acre farm with 200 head of cattle.  

“Through the years, my grandfather and then my dad added on to the original farm as the little settlements surrounding it folded,” Janet said.  

“When I took over for her dad in 2009, there were 40 cows,” Alvin added. “As we’ve grown, we’ve figured out a few things out along the way.”
One of those things is learning how to keep their cattle healthy. When the Brauns began working to build the herd and improve genetics, they turned to MFA to help ensure the animals had the right nutrition to support their growth and development.

“Our relationship with MFA has evolved into a very strong, family-like bond,” Alvin said. “As we were getting a feeding program established, MFA staff would visit the farm, look at the calves and give us suggestions. If you’re going to put all that time and money into bringing in genetics, you need to raise healthy calves that are going to become good producers.” 
With guidance from Stephen Daume, MFA livestock specialist, the Brauns found success with a menu of products and practices that include MFA Shield Technology, Ricochet minerals and supplement tubs. The combination has led to “a nice improvement in the health of all our cattle,” Alvin said.

MFA’s Shield Technology is an all-natural additive that helps improve the animal’s immune system, protect against oxidative stress, boost digestive health, and increase feed efficiency, daily gain, rumen function, breedback and overall performance.

Formulated for animals at all stages of production, Shield is available in several MFA feed products, including all Ricochet minerals. The blend of essential oils, probiotics and additives in Shield helps to enhance the performance of cattle grazing fescue pastures. Plus, Ricochet’s complete vitamin-mineral formulation covers the animal’s dietary requirements. The Brauns feed Ricochet mineral all year, with the fly control larvicide, Clarifly, added through the summer.
Including supplement tubs in the feeding program helps ensure everyday consumption of protein, vitamins and minerals by the cattle. Tubs are continually available to cattle, and the molasses base makes them palatable. This consistency is one of the major benefits of using tubs, said Stephen, who has worked with the Brauns for almost 10 years.

“Intake on dry mineral goes up and down, and sometimes cows might not lick mineral every day,” he said. “With tubs, the cow will hit it four or five times a day.” 
MFA offers a wide selection of supplement tubs for any season, condition and forage quality to meet the herd’s nutritional needs. The newest addition is the Vitalix line of tubs, several of which are available with Shield Technology.
“We use supplement tubs for all our pregnant cows. Healthy cows give birth to healthy calves,” Alvin said. “A couple of weeks prior to calving, we put the tubs out for the cows to boost their health. And for the calves, a few weeks before and during weaning, the tubs are out to help them through a stressful transition.”   

To further enhance animal health on their farm, the Brauns also use Shield Plus, which is designed to be administered to newborn or stressed an­imals. Available in liquid or paste forms, Shield Plus contains concentrated colostrum extract, synbiotics, botanical extracts, fatty acids and vitamins to promote animal health and immu­nity from the start. In addition, freeze-dried egg antibodies help combat scours, one of the most serious problems that plague newborn calves.

“As soon as the calf is born, we put Shield Plus in its mouth,” Alvin said. “Before we started using Shield, we had a lot of calves with scours.”

“Since we’ve used Shield and the tubs, scours are almost nonexistent,” Janet agreed. “Our calves are bigger and healthier and hit the ground running.” 
When it comes to breeding, the health benefits of Shield Technology also give the Brauns better peace of mind. All of their heifers and mature cows are artificially inseminated (AI) using top genetics that the producers have carefully selected.

“We started dabbling in AI with our young heifers to bring in some new genetics,” Janet explained. “And before we started using Shield, we were losing a few calves, which was very discouraging after putting in so much time and money.”
Likewise, disease can negatively impact the bottom line, Stephen added, either in loss of performance or even loss of life.

“Any time a calf has a disease situation, it decreases its performance at the time and impacts its performance through the rest of its life,” he said. “So, anything we can do to keep that calf healthy from the start helps us make sure we are getting the maximum expression of genetic potential that calf has to offer.”    

Restrictions on antibiotic use in the livestock industry make it increasingly important to manage animal health with preventive methods, Stephen emphasized. Reducing the need for antibiotics is another advantage of the Brauns’ multi-faceted approach.

“Before we were using Shield and Ricochet, we had to get a VFD (veterinary feed directive) and put CTC (chlortetracycline) in feed or mineral,” Alvin said. “Now we don’t have to do that because our cows are healthy. The Shield has really helped.”   RFD TV

The Brauns also add value to their herd by participating in MFA’s Health Track preconditioning program, which provides feed and animal health protocols to keep calves healthy before and after weaning.

“We are trying to promote the health of the herd year-round,” Stephen said. “You want to make sure those cows never have a bad day. With Health Track, we are working on adding some flexibility designed to improve whole-herd health. We’re going to have some other options available to keep cows on Ricochet throughout the year because of all the great health benefits.” 

There is no “magic bullet” when it comes to herd management, he added. Rather, it takes a combination of care to raise healthy, high-performing cattle.

“Shield is a great tool we have in the toolbox, along with other tools like environmental management, herd health techniques, scheduled immunizations and nutrition,” Stephen said. “When you use all these things together, you can build a strong foundation for your cattle that will last their entire life.” 

For more information on livestock feeds, minerals and tubs with Shield Technology, visit your MFA Agri Services or AGChoice locations or online at mfa-inc.com/Products/Feed/Shield.

Related Content: MFA was interviewed about the use of tubs on RFD-TV's American Farmer episode featuring Vitalix. It is scheduled for Nov. 29th at 7 pm. So set your DVR's or watch online at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiG2nEVyKRw


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Ready to recover

Take steps this fall to position stressed pastures, hay fields for a rally next spring

Lately, MFA Range and Pasture Specialist David Moore has opened each of his livestock producer meetings with an exercise in imagination. He asks the farmers in the room to close their eyes, think of the greenest grass they’ve ever seen, and picture themselves walking through the lush forage.

“Now, open your eyes,” Moore tells them, adding this assurance. “Trust that God is going to bring rain again. It is going to get better.”
Perhaps the approach is a bit unorthodox, but Moore said his mission is help improve the producers’ spirits as much as it is to improve their forages. For many, the perfect storm of high fertilizer prices, severe drought and reduced hay and pasture production has taken a heavy toll, not only on their bottom line but also on their frame of mind.

Moore visits with farmers and MFA personnel who attended the summer forage tour in Mt. Vernon, Mo. The range and pasture specialist has been conducting a number of such meetings lately to not only help producers improve their forages but also improve their mindset after a stressful growing season.Moore visits with farmers and MFA personnel who attended the summer forage tour in Mt. Vernon, Mo. The range and pasture specialist has been conducting a number of such meetings lately to not only help producers improve their forages but also improve their mindset after a stressful growing season.“I try to look at their mood when they get there, and I try to look at their mood when they leave,” Moore said. “And my hope is that it’s a little bit better.”

His advice is simple and straightforward—while producers may think they can’t afford to put money into fertility and weed control right now, they really can’t afford not to.

“The longer you wait, the worse it’s going to get,” Moore said. “We’re looking at an awful lot of acres that are grubbed all the way to the ground. If we just graze it all winter like we’re doing, we don’t put any plant food on it until springtime, and we don’t control the weeds, it’s going to take a long time for those fields to turn around.”

Throughout MFA territory, producers saw hay tonnage reduced 30% to 50% or even more this season, Moore said, due mainly to lack of water and nutrients. Many forage producers chose to cut back or eliminate fertilizer applications last spring, so their pastures and hay fields didn’t get the early growth they needed to withstand the dry weather that settled over the summer and continued into the fall.

At press time in late October, 100% of Missouri was in some stage of drought, with half of the state ranging from severe to exceptional levels, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The worst conditions remain in south-central and southwest Missouri along with northwest Arkansas and southeast Kansas.

Despite the persistent drought, Moore insists that producers can take heart. There’s plenty of time between now and the next growing season to get pastures and hay fields back in shape. He suggests three key steps to take this fall:
1. Allow overgrazed forages to recover by moving cattle to a “sacrifice” pasture.
2. Apply phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), necessary nutrients for healthy root growth and tolerance to drought and winter stress.
3. Control weeds, which can become more opportunistic and competitive under drought conditions.

“If we allow forages to rest and give them some fertilizer, they have the ability to repair themselves over the winter,” Moore explained. “If we’re primarily putting P and K out, it’s not going anywhere. We don’t lose it like we do nitrogen. Just let it be there. When it does rain, it’ll go to work on those roots. Come springtime and we apply some nitrogen, all of a sudden that field will come back to life.”
Herbicide applications should also accompany the plant food applications, Moore said. Weed control is especially important during abnormally dry conditions.

“Every time we have a drought, the weed situation goes from bad to worse over the winter,” he said. “When forages are grazed absolutely to the ground, there’s lots of exposure for those weed seeds to come out and compete with desirable plants, which are already stressed.”

In the absence of a soil test or exact recommendations from a trusted MFA adviser, Moore suggests applying a fertilizer analysis of 18-46-60 (N-P-K ratio) along with 18 ounces of DuraCor herbicide and 4 ounces of Soy Plus, a methylated seed oil, per acre. He said DuraCor is his herbicide of choice because of its wide-spectrum control of range and pasture weeds, including broadleaves, and extended residual control.
2HayThis past season, dry conditions and lack of fertilization caused hay tonnage to drop 30% to 50%—or even more—over much of MFA territory. MFA Range and Pasture Specialist David Moore recommends taking steps this fall and winter to ensure that pastures and hay fields will be in better shape come spring.
A convenient and cost-effective way to accomplish both is through the UltiGraz Pasture Weed & Feed system, available at many MFA locations. The system allows a concentrated herbicide solution to be blended with dry fertilizer granules, so plant nutrients and weed-control products can be spread at the same time.

When resources are already stretched thin, Moore said UltiGraz can help by allowing one less trip across the field and one less application cost while protecting the potential for higher forage yields. In fact, Moore said, for every pound of weeds removed, producers can expect 2 to 5 pounds of grass to grow in its place.

“The real benefit of weed control is we don’t have something out there stealing water and plant food,” he said. “All the moisture and all the nutrients go for the benefit of the forages, which is what we want to grow. That’s why we want weeds gone.”

In the meantime, for those left with limited pastures and poor-quality hay this fall and winter, Moore said providing supplemental protein tubs, liquid feeds and forage extender cubes can help ensure their animals receive proper nutrition. He also said covering hay with tarps or storing it inside a shed or barn can help preserve as much quality as possible. Left uncovered, 25% of net-wrapped hay and 45% of twine-tied bales can be lost to the weather in the first year.

“Basically, everything we’re doing right now is betting on next year,” Moore said. “We can’t fix the debacle that we’ve had this year. We just have to make our way through it.”

While these rule-of-thumb recommendations are a good starting point to manage forages this fall, Moore encourages producers to visit with their MFA livestock specialist, agronomist or key account manager to get specific guidance for their individual situations.

“The good news is that we live in an area that can recover quickly,” Moore said. “If we do our homework, get the fertilizer out there ahead of time, get the animals off the ground so it can rest, and do everything we can on our part to stop the weeds, I truly believe we will be in better shape next spring.

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In this October 2022 Today's Farmer Magazine


Farming Fiber
Agriculture becomes artistry for talented textile producers

by Allison Jenkins

Grand upgrade for grain
Rebuilt, expanded facility officially opens at West Central AGRIServices in Adrian

by Allison Jenkins

Conversion complete
MFA is now fully operating under new Merchant Grain software system

by Allison Jenkins

Weather or not, Training Camp continues
Rain pushes MFA’s annual field day indoors but doesn’t stop opportunities for learning

by Allison Jenkins

Sharing MFA’s history
Former manager donates memorabilia to Chariton County museum

by Jessica Ekern

Building business for beef
3C Cattle Company takes pride in its emerging Angus seedstock farm

by Jessica Ekern

What lies beneath: a look into fall fertility
In a volatile marketplace, it’s wise to make the most of your plant food investment

by Colin Kraft

Keep cows in condition for better breeding
Fall is prime time to evaluate your herd’s body scores

by  Dr. Jim White


Country Corner
Betting smart money on climate solutions

by Allison Jenkins

Drive to Feed Kids provides 2.4 million meals to Missourians in need
Celebration of cooperation
Dicamba decision

Markets (as printed)
Corn: Yields likely to be lower in upcoming reports
Soybeans: South America farmers may grow more beans
Cattle: Cattle prices headed higher
Wheat: Black Sea unrest continues to impact markets

Recipes (as printed)
Pack a lunch

BUY, sell, trade (as printed)

There can be constants in the waves of change

by Ernie Verslues

Closing Thought - Oct. 22
Photo by Allison Jenkins
Poem by Walter Bargen

Click below on the image to view the October Issue as a flip book.

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