Grazing schools in Missouri - conducted by University of Missouri Extension and the National Resource Conservation Service — have been a huge success based on surveys and testimonials from those attending.
The two or three-day educational programs introduce attendees to a variety of soil, fertility, forage and economic considerations involved with planning grazing system.
A popular exercise is the pasture allotment session. Teams of students view a pasture and determine how much space will be needed to provide grazing for a certain number of cattle for the next 24 hours. They are provided with step-in posts, poly wire, and watering supplies.
Typically, the pasture is fescue. At the Mt. Vernon grazing school held in late April, the pasture was a novel endophyte fescue that was seeded in 2013. The test animals were five head of yearling dairy heifers weighing about 600 pounds.
"The class of 39 was divided into three teams that decided the needed grazing area for their heifers," said Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension. "As a rule, the teams have the big-eye on the needed space and provide an excessive amount of forage. This year's teams were different, and one in particular overgrazed their small pasture."
The allocation exercise is done early in the school, so the students are on their own as they evaluated the amount of forage available and expected intake by the cattle.
"In this session the pasture was estimated at eight inches tall and only a fair stand since it was not a dense, established stand of fescue yet," said Cole.
The novel variety also would be expected to be more palatable than the endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 variety. The instructions were to leave about a 3-inch stubble so the pasture would rebound sooner for another grazing bout in two to three weeks.
"In periods of rapid growth, we suggest grazing fast and resting a shorter time before returning for the next grazing bout," said Cole.
During the school in Mt. Vernon, one group provided 1500 square feet of pasture that was over-grazed and will take longer to respond. The heifers probably only received about 11 pounds of the dry matter while their daily needs were closer to 14 pounds per head. The other two teams provided up to 4000 square feet, and their pastures looked much better.
"Even though the one team over-grazed, it was an excellent learning experience for all of the students and all received their certificates at the end of the school," said Cole.
Dates for the Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) Schools in southwest Missouri have been set for 2015. Three sessions have already been held in southwest Missouri, but four others are planned for this fall.
- September 15, 17, 22 and 24 (evenings) and Sept. 19 (Saturday field day, all day) in Greenfield. Contact: Cedar County SWCD at (417) 276-3388, ext. 3.
- September 16, 17 and 18 (daytime) in Crane. Contact Stone County SWCD at 417-723-8389.
- September 22, 23 and 24 (daytime) in Marshfield. Contact: Webster County SWCD at (417) 468-4176, ext. 3.
- October 20, 21 and 22 (daytime) in Springfield. Contact: Greene County SWCD at 417-831-5246, ext. 3.
Registration forms and fees can be obtained at the NRCS office on Hwy. B, Springfield, Mo., or by contacting Mark Green at (417) 831-5246 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a limit on attendance at each location, and the enrollment fee varies.
Source: University of Missouri Extension