Feature

Understanding equine ulcers

MFA launches Easykeeper HDC for gastric health     

Foals and performance horses risk running afoul of gastric ulcers, studies show. Anywhere from 60 percent of show horses to 90 percent of performance horses suffer from ulcers, a startling statistic that led MFA Incorporated to launch a new product in equine gastric health—Easykeeper HDC.

“A horse has a funny stomach,” said Janice Spears, MFA equine sales and companion pet specialist. “It’s divided in half. The bottom half has better coverage to keep acid from eating through the stomach lining, but for newborn foals that have just been in the birth canal and performance horses that travel in addition to performing, that acid can slosh into the top half causing ulcers.”

EasykeeperHDCEasykeeper HDC, which stands for horse digestive care, contains sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the stomach acid. It works much like an acid reducer for humans, Spears explained.

Symptoms of an ulcer can include reduced appetite, weight loss, dull coat, changes in behavior, impaired performance, diarrhea and colic. Stress and exercise can contribute to these symptoms.

“A ‘cinchy’ horse can also be an indicator,” Spears said. “When you tighten the girth, some horses seem like they’re in pain. They may turn around and act like they’re going to bite. If you’re putting pressure on an ulcer, that could be a sore spot.”

In their natural environment, horses graze throughout the day. As they continually eat, they produce saliva, which helps buffer acid in the stomach. For performance horses that do not spend as much time in the pasture, increasing feeding and available roughage, regulating starch intake, allowing more opportunities to graze, minimizing stress and ensuring water is available at all times can help manage and prevent ulcers, Spears said.

Confirming if your horse has an ulcer requires a veterinary visit. Using an endoscope, a veterinarian will visually check for the presence of ulcers. Though effective, this procedure can be expensive and calls for sedation, which is potentially dangerous, Spears said. She suggests trying a product like Easykeeper HDC first to see if symptoms abate.

“To treat horses, top-dress their food with two cups a day for about two weeks. After two weeks back it off to one cup for maintenance,” Spears said. “A 30-pound package of Easykeeper HDC should last for about a month. Some of our customers have even chosen to use the feed for preventative maintenance, like taking a Tums each day.”

During the months of testing Easykeeper HDC, owners reported improvement in their horses’ attitude.

“Customers who tried the product said they could just tell a difference,” Spears said. “The horses were happier and, ultimately, performed better.”
For more information on gastric ulcers or Easykeeper HDC, contact Janice Spears at 573-876-5473 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Empower Change

Leaders address challenges of 2018, share cooperative updates at annual meeting   

Weather extremes and marketplace challenges dominated discussions at MFA’s 2018 Annual Meeting, held Nov. 27 at the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia.

With so many outside forces at work—from economics and trade to regulations and technology—the meeting’s theme, “Empower Change,” was even more meaningful, said CEO Ernie Verslues. His president’s address outlined some of the ways MFA took charge of change in 2018 for the betterment of the cooperative and its farmer-owners.

presMFA Incorporated President and CEO Ernie Verslues delivers his president’s address in which he outlined ongoing changes to MFA’s retail and sales structure.“The current pace of change is mind-boggling, but it also provides unlimited potential,” Verslues said. “MFA implements change because we want to deliver the best products and services possible. In most cases, we succeed. But no matter the outcome, we try, we learn and we keep moving forward until we’ve met the challenge.”

More than 600 delegates, employees and special guests attended the meeting, which featured exhibits by MFA’s operating divisions and MFA Oil.

Even with weather and political issues affecting yield and prices, MFA managed to stay profitable, said Board Chairman Wayne Nichols. He specifically mentioned MFA’s efforts in helping farmers through the summer drought.

“MFA and its employees took up the unique demands of drought by seeking solutions for its members,” he said. “From county-by-county information on drought relief to finding products and services that could help mitigate short feed situations and row-crop challenges, I believe MFA was a valuable resource.”

Verslues listed other operational highlights of 2018, including cutting-edge livestock feeds, MFA’s PowerCalf app, a successful first full year at the Hamilton Rail Facility, MFA’s proprietary MorCorn and MorSoy brands of seed and industry-leading precision programs. He also reported that MFA is nearing completion of its MerchantAg software implementation at all company-owned stores, an upgrade that will provide better data access and management.

“We never sit still,” Verslues said. “We are always looking to improve. We embrace the challenges and opportunities we are facing in agriculture, and we know it will require continued change.”
The biggest change for MFA in recent months is the reorganization of the cooperative’s sales structure, resulting from the recommendations of a committee assembled from a cross-section of the company.

“With these changes, livestock and agronomy sales are now a full-time focus,” Verslues said. “Customer interaction can’t be a part-time job. As a company, we are better focused on building relationships and better prepared to serve your needs.”

What won’t change, he added, is MFA’s attention to people, finances, products, services and facilities.

Farm Supply Product Manager Ryan Mauzey, left, talks with Tom Silvey of Hamilton about the features of the Brush Buster pasture sprayer.Farm Supply Product Manager Ryan Mauzey, left, talks with Tom Silvey of Hamilton about the features of the Brush Buster pasture sprayer.“We have a staff that does an incredible job of servicing our customers’ needs. We must provide them the tools to do their job,” he said. “Despite the tough ag economy, we continue to have a strong balance sheet. We can’t lose sight of continued financial strength. And we must continue to develop solutions to your challenges, provide value to your operations and be good stewards of the land, air and water.”
2018 by the numbers

Financial highlights of MFA’s 2018 fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31, were shared by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Raetz. Consolidated sales reached $1.76 billion, which includes volume from MFA’s business entities and joint ventures.

In 2018, MFA Incorporated’s cooperative business reached $1.05 billion in sales. MFA Enterprises, a wholly owned subsidiary of MFA Incorporated, had $195 million in sales. Formed in 2001, MFA Enterprises represents non-cooperative expansion in southern Iowa, southeast Kansas, west-central Missouri and northwest Missouri.

Northwest Missouri Grain, also known as the MFA Rail Facility, reached $58 million this year. This joint venture with MFA Oil Co. opened in the summer of 2017.

Other joint ventures include AGRIServices of Brunswick, Cache River Valley Seed, Mid-State Seed and Alliance Animal Care. MFA holds a 50-percent ownership in these companies. The cooperative also has 45-percent stake in Central Missouri AGRIService. Together, the joint ventures delivered $462 million in sales this year.

Pre-tax profits were $8.3 million, and MFA will return $5.1 million to member-owners in cash patronage and equity retirements.

While it was a “respectable profit year,” Raetz said, those figures aren’t ultimately where MFA needs to be. He attributed both the summer drought and harvest rains for the less-than-expected financial performance.

“Needless to say,” he said, “the weather had an impact on final numbers and will reduce our grain handled in 2019.”

Reviewing financial performance by category, Raetz reported that grain sales were $519 million, an increase of $37 million, with 84 million bushels handled throughout the system. Anticipating lower yields from this past season, he said the 2019 plan forecasts just over 70 million bushels.

Field crop sales—which includes plant foods, seed and crop protection—were $613 million, an increase of $31 million over fiscal 2017. Raetz attributed the increase to a “good year” for plant food sales, which increased $41 million. MFA’s MorSoy and MorCorn also continue to make up a larger portion of seed sales.

The drought, however, negatively affected crop protection sales, which decreased $9 million.

Livestock supply sales increased $15 million to a total of $173 million, which includes feed, animal health and farm supply sales.

“The lion’s share of this increase is in our Feed Division,” Raetz said. “Feed tons totaled 351,000, an increase of 17,000 tons. There is no question our Feed Division is the market leader in our trade territory, and we have high-quality products that set us apart from our competition. These products continue to add value to our livestock producers.”

Total margins and operating revenues were $223 million, an increase of $4 million from fiscal 2017. Joint venture earnings were $2.3 million compared to $3 million last year. Working capital was $83 million at year end.

Total assets at the end of August were up slightly to $496 million, due mainly to an increase in supply inventory. Again, Raetz pointed out, this was a byproduct of lower sales volume during the summer.

Raetz reported that MFA Incorporated has long-term debt of $84 million, including a term loan with CoBank, which financed the rail project, and the MFA Bond Program, which is unsecured debt.
Total net worth increased to $165 million, divided into non-cooperative earnings at $112 million and member equities of $53 million.

“Thanks to your support and continued patronage, MFA has built a strong balance sheet, and we continue to be a very strong company,” Raetz said. “It was a challenging year, and I believe the sales and volume numbers show your management team did a good job of maintaining and growing our market share. As a team, we are optimistic going into fiscal year 2019 and beyond.”

Change for rural Missouri    
Addressing the challenges of 2018 has also been a focus for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Speaking at the annual meeting, Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn gave an update on the department’s “MORE” campaign, which she said addressed food insecurity, rural access to high-speed internet, government regulation and workforce development over the past year.

“Agriculture is the strongest economic driver in rural Missouri, and from the beginning, MFA has been a central part of that economic hub,” Chinn said. “The tradition of putting farmers first and keeping rural Missouri strong is a shared goal of not only MFA but also your department of agriculture. Revitalizing rural communities is a passion of mine, and that’s what we built our MORE strategic initiative around.”

The meeting’s featured speaker was farm broadcaster, author and farmer Andrew McCrea, host of a national radio program, “American Countryside.” He also raises crops and cattle in Maysville, Mo., where he serves on his local MFA board. (See related story,)

A gifted storyteller, McCrea shared his experiences both on the farm and on the air, describing interesting places and people he’s met along the way. His overall message focused on the meeting theme, “Empower Change,” emphasizing that there’s a huge difference between change that is done to us and change we are empowered to make ourselves.

“Changes beyond our control are often a source of stress and worry,” McCrea said. “Changes we initiate ourselves, on the other hand, can be exhilarating and motivating.”
Reflecting on the many interviews he’d conducted through the years, McCrea said those who prosper in times of change have three traits that set them apart: They are personal and purposeful, and they have perspective.

“When you have purpose, you have a direction,” he said. “Being personal is all about how you deal with others. It takes a balance of both. Successful change also requires perspective. It’s not all about you. It’s about the people around you, too.”

And people, Chairman Nichols said, will continue to drive successful change for MFA.

“To empower change is to take ownership of it,” he said. “There is exciting work going on in both livestock and row crops at MFA. I want to thank MFA employees—from the home office, to the behind-the-scenes drivers, plant managers, and salespeople, to every location. As customers, we all know how vital employees are as the face of MFA.”

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Sharing the conservation commitment

Scherder Farms honored with 2018 Leopold Award for efforts to promote stewardship    

Scherder Farms of Frankford, Mo., received the 2018 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award on Jan. 10 at the 48th Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture. Pictured from left are Lance Irving, Sand County Foundation National Director for the Leopold Conservation Award; Sandy and John Scherder; their daughter and son-in-law, Holly and Curtis Delgman; and Missouri Farmers Care Executive Director Ashley McCarty. Scherder Farms of Frankford, Mo., was named winner of the 2018 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award, which honors Missouri farmers’ achievement in voluntary stewardship and natural resources management.

John and Sandy Scherder farm with their daughter and son-in-law, Holly and Curtis Delgman, growing corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, and beef cattle on 3,500 acres in the Peno Creek watershed. The family implements conservation practices including cover crops, innovative seeding methods and crop rotations to preserve wildlife habitat, promote soil health and reduce erosion. Other conservation practices include constructing grass waterways, terraces and sediment basin structures.

“We are honored at Scherder Farms to be nominated and to receive this very prestigious award,” John said. “However, the soil conservation practices we have implemented were not done for money or recognition, but rather to conserve and improve the land we have been using for the past 40 years and to leave it better than we found it. Our hope is that it can be sustainably used by future generations with the practices put in place by this generation.”

Missouri Farmers Care, a coalition of agricultural organizations, including MFA Incorporated, partners with the Sand County Foundation to bring the Leopold award to the Show-Me State. Other finalists for the award this year were Kenny Brinker of Auxvasse and Haubein Farms of Lockwood. Uptown Farms of Laclede received the first Leopold Award presented in Missouri in 2017.

“We congratulate the Scherder family on receiving this distinguished award in recognition of their exemplary stewardship efforts,” said Gary Marshall, chairman of Missouri Farmers Care. “John and Sandy are firmly committed to preserving and improving the land and water for future generations. We are proud to showcase their achievements and continue working alongside our partners to promote the innovative conservation practices being implemented by today’s farmers.”

The Sand County Foundation created the award in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. Leopold’s 1949 collection of essays, “A Sand County Almanac,” is one of the most influential books about the environment ever written. His namesake award has been presented annually since 2003 by the Sand County Foundation, which was established in 1965 to preserve the Wisconsin property where Leopold did his writing and research. The organization now supports and promotes conservation on working lands across the U.S. and presents the Leopold award in 14 states.

In Missouri, the award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Missouri Farmers Care, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Scherders were honored with a $10,000 award and commemorative crystal trophy Jan. 10 at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture.

“John shows his commitment to the land on his farm and his passion for innovation in his service to his fellow farmers,” said Robert Alpers, a farmer from Prairie Home and chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “It is outstanding to see his hard work and positive examples recognized as a Leopold Award recipient.”

In addition to the on-farm improvements, the Scherders helped develop the Peno Creek Cooperative Partnership, a farmer-led watershed initiative that promotes the importance of cover crops, rotational grazing systems and agricultural conservation practices. “There is no better example of how to utilize natural resources to make a living and also improve them for future use,” said J.R. Flores, NRCS State Conservationist. “The Scherders’ conservation ethic is exemplary. They offer proof that we can live in harmony with the land.”

For more information on the Leopold Award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.

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Tops in crops

Kevin Moore exemplifies CCA program’s emphasis on knowledge, commitment to growers

Kevin Moore, left, receives recognition for being Missouri’s top Certified Crop Adviser at the 2018 University of Missouri Crops Conference in Columbia, Mo. Presenting the award is MFA senior agronomist Jason Worthington. Moore is one of 75 CCAs employed by MFA. There are 296 CCAs in Missouri.MFA Crop-Trak area sales manager Kevin Moore was named the 2018 Missouri Certified Crop Adviser of the Year Dec. 18 during the University of Missouri Crops Conference in Columbia, Mo.

The award is designed to recognize a crop advisor who delivers exceptional customer service, is highly innovative, has shown leadership, and has contributed substantially to the exchange of ideas and the transfer of agronomic knowledge within Missouri’s agricultural industry.

“I’d say there is a formula to being a top-notch CCA,” said Jason Worthington, MFA senior agronomist and Moore’s supervisor. “It takes a deep knowledge of agronomy, a keen eye, genuine curiosity and a high level of commitment to the growers you are helping. You also need to put in the hours—and to sweat. Someone like Kevin walks miles and miles in Missouri’s summer heat to get the job done.”

The Certified Crop Adviser program is coordinated through the American Society of Agronomy. To become certified, a candidate must have two years of crop production experience and a bachelor’s degree in agronomy or at least four years of post-high school experience, pass a CCA state and international exam as well as sign a code of ethics. CCAs must earn continuing education credits to remain certified.
Missouri has 296 certified crop advisers. MFA employs 75 of them.

“Kevin is a great example of the value of the Certified Crop Adviser program,” Worthington said. “To get certified, there is an expectation for the level of agronomic expertise you must have. There is a requirement for real-world experience and a real commitment to the customer. There is an expectation that you continue to learn throughout your career and stay involved with the changes the industry undergoes. I think it’s an important program for agriculture and valuable to growers.”
Moore made news in Today’s Farmer and around the state in 2016 when he discovered populations of extended-diapause rootworm in northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa. It was the first confirmed case of the pest in Missouri. Its discovery has helped corn growers better understand the agronomic and economic threat posed by the pest and to adjust management practices accordingly.

Interestingly, this wasn’t Moore’s first rootworm discovery. In 2013 when he was a crop consultant in Illinois, Moore was first to discover Bt-resistant soybean-variant western corn rootworm. Again, it was relevant information for growers in the area to understand and consider in management decisions.

Jeff Leonard, who administers the Certified Crop Adviser program for the Missouri Agribusiness Association, said he is impressed every year when the top CCA is announced.

“It reminds me that we are providing a valuable service,” he said. “Kevin Moore, a 14-year crop consulting veteran, exemplifies why this program exists. When he started in the business, we didn’t have extended-diapause corn rootworm in Missouri. But things change. He identified that change and passed that information on to the industry. The goal with certification requirements for knowledge and continuing education are meant to drive our business toward excellence. Clearly, Kevin is leading the way.”

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