“Beef after Dairy,” an MU Extension workshop designed for dairy producers looking to transition to a beef production, will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.,
Tuesday, September 17th at the Southwest Research Center,
14548 Hwy H,  Mt. Vernon, MO.

“We’ve seen many dairy farms in SWMO, sell out over the past 18 months” said Reagan Bluel, Dairy field specialist, University of Missouri Extension. Many of these generational dairy farms seek to transition into a cow calf beef operation.
However, a dairy operation and a beef operation are very different enterprises. 
“Although this is the last topic this dairy specialist would like to host, it is a much needed throughout the region to ensure financial success in the current agriculture marketplace,” said Bluel.

The evening begins with Dr. Eric Bailey, MU Beef Extension Specialist for the state, addressing the different dietary needs. “Going from a cow making 60 lbs of milk to one who averages 20 – the feeding must have a radical change,” said Bailey. Followed by Joe Horner, Ag Economist specializing in beef and dairy for MU Extension, presenting “Financial changes to expect – dairy to beef”. The last half of the night, Eldon Cole, field specialist in livestock, presenting “The top 5 questions I’ve receive as beef specialist for the past 54 years”.The evening will wrap up with a producer panel of those who have made the transition and are willing to share their insights.

Pre-registration is required to ensure adequate dinner is available, however this event is offered at no cost through the help of our generous sponsors. Contact the Barry County University of Missouri Extension Center at (417) 847-3161 or Reagan Bluel at BluelRJ@missouri.edu for more information and to pre-register by September 12th.



Previous meetings






Farm Finance Basics: Complete a Balance Sheet on January 1

By: Joe Horner -

Tracking your farm financial progress starts with completing a Balance Sheet as of January 1st every year. The balance sheet lists everything you own and everything you owe.

The difference needed to "balance" what you owe and what you own is your equity or net worth at the point in time you do the balance sheet.

Completing a balance sheet every year as of January 1, gives you the ability to:

  • Track and demonstrate growth in wealth to lenders or stakeholders
  • Combine income and expenses from calendar year tax records with changes in your balance sheet, allowing one to see the true "accrual" profit or losses
  • Examine trends in working capital (current assets - current liabilities)
  • Serve as a quick template to update any time of year you may need a balance sheet for a lender when getting a loan

If you don't have a standard blank balance sheet from your lender, here is a balance sheet form and a completed dairy balance sheet to use as an example. Additional farm balance sheet templates are available online simply by doing an internet search for "Farm Balance Sheet."

To learn more about using farm financial statements and measure, check out the Center for Farm Financial Management's web site at: http://ifsam.cffm.umn.edu/


Missouri dairy judging team excel in international competitions


From left, team members Grant Groves and Lora Wright; David Lawrie, national chairman of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs; and team members Ellie Wantland and Daryin Sharp. Photo credit: MU Extension 4-H.

For details on the dairy judging team click this link-Information on Missouri Dairy Judging team


2018 Farm Bill Update -


By: Scott Brown, University of Missouri

The 2018 Farm Bill recently passed by Congress offers significant changes to the dairy safety net relative to the safety net included in the 2014 Farm Bill. These changes are in response to the many concerns voiced regarding the effectiveness . . . or the ineffectiveness . . . of the safety net in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) passed in the 2014 Farm Bill.

New name
The modifications made to MPP-Dairy in the 2018 Farm Bill, now called Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), significantly strengthen the safety net features of the program. Dairy farmers should examine carefully their participation in the DMC program given the new features and flexibility it contains.

The DMC program offers expanded margin protection coverage levels up to and including $9.50 per hundredweight (cwt.) on an operation’s first 5 million pounds of annual production history. The added levels of enhanced coverage allow dairy farmers to purchase strengthened protection against low margin periods. The DMC margin will be calculated on a monthly basis (this had been bimonthly under MPP-Dairy) and continues to use the same calculation originally passed in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Protect 5 to 95 percent
Dairy producers will find more flexibility in their choice of the percentage of their production history to cover since they can choose in 5 percent increments of coverage from a range of 5 to 95 percent. The change to 5 percent increments allows larger operations to have more flexibly to cover their first 5 million pounds of production history at the lower tier 1 premiums without needing to cover any production history at the higher tier 2 premiums. Overall, this provision likely will raise the percentage of production history eligible to 95 percent, providing a means for additional milk to be covered.

Reduced premium costs
Premiums at the tier 1 level, the first 5 million pounds of production history, are lower at the higher coverage levels than was the case under the MPP-Dairy program. Further premium discounts are available if a producer signs up for five years.

For example, the DMC $8 per cwt. premium cost is 10 cents per cwt. in comparison to the 47.5 cents per cwt. premium cost under the original MPP-Dairy. The $9.50 coverage level available on the first 5 million pounds of production history has a premium of 15 cents per cwt. If a dairy farmer signs up for all five years of the new farm bill, those premiums are reduced to 7.5 cents ($8 coverage) and 11.25 cents ($9.50 coverage).

The best option in years
The combination of lower premium costs, the added flexibility in production history covered, and higher margin protection levels results in a much more effective safety program than the dairy industry has had in some time. It is time for dairy producers of all sizes to consider their use of the DMC program in their risk management strategy.


During Drought, Consider Baling Corn Silage

Corn silage is a staple to dairy cattle rations, often comprising half of the ration for confinement dairy cattle in southwest Missouri. High quality silage is difficult to replace in the ration because it serves as both a forage to keep the rumen satisfied yet it also provides energy from the grain.

This growing season has been difficult for many stands. Barry County has received just two inches of rainfall since June 1, according to a COCORAHS rain reporter near Purdy, Mo. Some areas have had less, as rainfall this growing season has been spotty.

"Although silage made from drought-stressed corn will not be as good as normal, we can still capture some feeding value if producers act fast to bale before the plant burns up," said Bluel.

Those without chopping equipment might consider using the baler they have on hand.

2016 Bailing Test

In 2016, a Lawrence county dairyman baled a test plot of corn for silage in collaboration with University of Missouri Extension, S&H Farm Supply, and Crown Power of Monett. Two balers used included newly available crop cutting technology, while the third baler was a standard baler.

Corn wilted in the field until it reached 75 percent moisture. Corn was baled, net wrapped then wrapped in white plastic. These bales then underwent fermentation until early October.

"The fermentation profile was remarkably similar to typical corn silage," said Bluel. At feedout, cows wasted little feed and milked well.

The project demonstrated that baled corn is a viable feed solution. While not economically feasible in 2016 (a normal growing season) perhaps under drought conditions, it may be the only feasible option for some growers.

According to Bluel there are some items to consider.

First, visit a local MU Extension office or send a sample to a lab to ensure drought stressed corn is not high in nitrate, prior to baling.

Second, moisture is critical to ensure an appropriate fermentation profile. Too dry, it will not pack out oxygen and too wet will encourage clostridia production resulting in moldy/slimy silage.

Third, forage corn tonnage varies little after tassling. Waiting is not advantageous.

Fourth, at feed out cows will likely require energy supplementation to support lactation. Work with your nutritionist or local livestock specialist to ensure the ration is balanced to meet aherd's needs.

Fifth, check with your insurance agent prior to harvesting grain corn for silage.


Heat Stressed?

For more information and resources related to dairy cattle heat stress, visit dairy.missouri.edu/stress

MO Dairy - In the news
'Close-up Cow' Barns Help Cows Avoid Heat Stress, Produce More Milk
Martin Prairie Farms near Humansville, Missouri treats dairy cows like guests.

The family-owned dairy farm north of Humansville in Hickory County dedicates itself to top-of-the-line herd nutrition and care, says University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist Reagan Bluel.

Freddie and Mary Martin, son David, and David's spouse, Alana, own and operate the nearly 3,000-acre farm. Almost 700 cows produce an average of more than 24,300 pounds of milk yearly, or 8 gallons per day per cow. The Martins milk cows three times daily-7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Cow comfort is key. "Experienced dairymen tell us that cows that aren't comfortable and cool produce less milk," says Bluel. "It is not rare for the vulnerable herds to experience a 10- to 20-percent decline in milk production during the hottest of times."

Recent research from the University of Florida found that not only do heat-stressed cows produce less milk than cows given access to shade, sprinklers and fans, they also give birth to calves that grow up to produce less milk, says Bluel.The Martins house cows in three free-stall barns, which give the cows room to roam in a comfortable environment shielded from precipitation and extreme temperatures. They flush and clean barns six times daily.


They are expanding their operation to include a compost-bedded pack barn for the cows nearing calving. The 125-foot-long "close-up cow" barn offers good ventilation and protection from the elements.

"The key is to not overcrowd," David says. A 16-foot feed alley allows easy access for equipment. Tilling the bedding daily aids composting action to reduce odor and disease. The compost can be applied as nutrient-rich fertilizer to fields. Calf hutches line the inside of the pack barn, away from the cows. This ensures individualized care for each heifer for the first two weeks.

Nutrition is another key ingredient of the Martins' healthy herd. They add expired fruits and vegetables from local grocers to their total mixed ration (TMR). David formulates the TMR with the assistance Dennis Turner of Turner's Special Supply in Hartsville.Most of the feed products come from the farm. Corn silage and wheat are the homegrown stored forages. They devote most of the acreage to mixed grass pasture for grazing or hay, and they purchase dry alfalfa off-farm.

The Martins share workloads. Freddie oversees the dairy and takes charge of calves up to 4 months of age. David is in charge of rations, crops, cares for calves after they are 4 months old and markets the springer heifer crop. David's wife supervises nutrient management and is responsible for human resources. There is a herd manager and a team of employees, including six who milk the cows.

Unlike many modern-day dairy farms, the Martins believe in checking on their cows by foot instead of by ATVs. "We think it helps to develop relationships with the cows," David says.

This is the third generation of Martins to raise dairy cattle on the farm. Freddie's father moved to the farm in 1950, when Freddie was 10. He bought 120 acres and hand-milked Guernsey dairy cows. The original parlor still stands in the shadow of the new pack barn facility.

David graduated in 1992 with a degree in agricultural economics from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. He credits MU's "Returning to the Farm" seminar with a smooth transition back to the farm.

Compost bedded pack barns offer cow comfort, higher production
MACOMB, Mo. – Happy, healthy cows give more milk.
Southwestern Missouri dairy farmers find that cows housed in compost bedded pack barns are healthy, happy and produce more milk, says University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist Ted Probert.Bedded pack barns are structures used to house livestock by continually adding new bedding to the living area. Large, open-air bedded barns provide comfortable resting and walking areas instead of individual stalls and concrete alleyways typically used in freestall operations.

Probert says southwestern Missouri’s many sawmills give livestock owners an ample supply of finely ground sawdust for packing. The sawdust provides livestock with soft, safe resting and walking areas. Livestock operators till the sawdust, which contains animal waste, and it builds into compost over time.Sawdust prevents foot and leg injuries commonly associated with concrete and hard dirt surfaces, Probert says. Compost bedded pack barns tend to create less odor than other manure storage systems. Farmers clean barns once or twice yearly and apply the nutrient-rich material to cropland.

Cow comfort is king, Probert says. Most farmers equip their barns with curtains that lower during rain, snow and windstorms. Ceiling or side fans circulate air and cool cows. Some barns have sprinkler systems to cool cows during periods of excessive heat. The barns allow animals to walk freely to feeding, watering and grazing areas.

These barns offer great value at a low cost, Probert says. He says cost sharing for pack barns is now available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s EQIP program. For more information, go to nrcs.usda.gov.

One southwestern Missouri dairy producer received advice on compost bedded pack barns from numerous MU Extension specialists, including Probert, Joe Zulovich, Bob Schultheis and retired dairy specialist Barry Steevens. They guided Mountain Grove dairy producer David Gray through the decision-making for his pack barn. Gray Family Dairy includes David, wife Rhonda and three children.

Gray says he has seen improved milk production of 15-18 pounds daily per cow since building his 60-by-140-foot pack barn in 2014. His entire 78-cow Holstein herd has access to the barn. Gray uses sawdust from area sawmills for bedding. He tills the compost daily and spreads it on 55 acres of cornfields used for silage twice a year. “We’ve seen a big benefit in organic matter and fertility,” he says. Gray’s barn features large overhead ceiling fans that cool cows and ventilate the barn. He raises or lowers side curtains as temperatures change. Lights are on a timer. They provide extended “daytime” for cows. Research shows that this increases milk production.

He also has seen lower somatic cell counts, a main indicator of milk quality. Milk buyers pay higher prices for low herd SCC. Buyers also refuse to buy milk with levels above targeted amounts. Cows also eat more when comfortable, Gray says, and his herd has increased feed intake significantly. Increased comfort reduces feed intake lags during heat stress. Cows also have ready access to feed in nearby feed barns.

Gray notices other signs of improved cow comfort. He sees fewer foot injuries, and improved udder and teat health. Their relaxation level is so strong that he is sometimes unsure if cows are relaxing or dead when he walks into the pack barn. Another benefit is improved heat detection. Comfortable cows and better footing improve mounting. Producers can better monitor breeding because animals are located in a central area. Cows are free to roam to other areas but they return to the pack. “What do they choose? They choose to go to an open gate but they choose to come back to where the comfort is,” Gray says. The barn provides comfort for dairy herd owners too, he says. He sleeps better on cold winter nights knowing that his cows are not lying on snow-covered pastures.

For more information on compost bedded pack barns, contact Probert at 417-547-7545 or probertt@missouri.edu, or dairy specialist Reagan Bluel at 417-847-3161 or bluelrj@missouri.edu.


Women in Dairy


Missouri Holstein cow produces nearly 24 gallons of milk per day
Owner 'grazes' the bar with quality forage.

Source: Reagan Bluel, 417-847-3161

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. –  Missouri Holstein Dezi is a moo-ver and a milker.

The Lawrence County cow outperforms most of her regional counterparts, producing just short of three times as much milk per day, says University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist Reagan Bluel.

Dezi, owned by farmer Karl Wilke, churns out 201 pounds of milk per day. That’s the equivalent of about 24 gallons—15 gallons more than the average Holstein.

The 200-pound-plus achievement through peak production is not uncommon in dairy states, but it is rare in Missouri’s Ozark region. “She’s a superstar,” says Bluel.

Dezi’s efforts earned her nomination as the Missouri Holstein Association Cow of the Year. The winner will be named at the Heart of America Expo, Jan. 19-21 in Springfield. More than 500 producers from 15 states plan to attend.

Bluel says Wilke uses solid dairy management practices to achieve outstanding herd performance.  

Wilke is “graze-ing the bar” for other dairy producers by growing and feeding quality forage. “They do a phenomenal job of putting up great forage,” Bluel says.

Wilke feeds Dezi and the rest of the herd corn silage and high-moisture cereal rye bales – 60 percent moisture – and pastures the herd on cereal rye. There is no alfalfa in the Wilke herd diet. Wilke says he quit growing alfalfa after the 2012 drought and bought it for a few years when fertilizer prices increased. He saw some production loss but profits increased.

Wilke also uses the services the Dairy Herd Improvement Association testing and record-keeping.  Bluel also points out that Wilke studies and then amends management based on the results of DHIA tests and records.  

Dezi was born and AI-bred on the Wilke farm. As a first-lactation heifer, she showed promise, Bluel says. The 5-year-old is being flushed to maintain multiple offspring.

A bred heifer is scheduled to freshen this fall to carry on the cow family name. Wilke is eager to see if she will shine among her peers in the 165-head herd. He hopes her genetics will carry on to her progeny. Third-party testing confirms her milk for protein and butterfat quality.

Dezi feeds on partial mixed ration and is turned out to graze on rye. Part of her superb performance may be attributed to rains in the fall of 2015 that created optimum lush pastures.

Advantages of feeding a partial mixed ration (PMR) include more uniformity in nutrients reaching the cow and therefore less disruption of rumen function, Bluel says. Supplementation allows for an improved control of dry matter intake and reduced rumen digestive problems. “When supplementing pasture with PMR, the rumen is prepped for dietary changes to continue to support lactation even when the pasture gets short,” she says.

Research at Penn State University shows that grazing cows supplemented with a PMR had higher milk fat and protein, better body condition and produced 8 pounds more milk per day than those not fed a PMR.

Wilke and his parents moved their dairy operation to Missouri from Wisconsin in 1979. Missouri’s milder climate appealed to them. Wilke family members have been dairy farmers since coming to the United States from Germany in the 1860s.

Wilke family members are strong supporters of MU Extension education. Karl serves as president of the Lawrence County Extension Council. His family donated some of the foundation heifers in the University of Missouri grazing herd.  

Wilke believes in passing along his dairy knowledge to MU Extension 4-H members and others. He provides scholarships for 4-H camp and offers to host dairy judging clinics at his farm. Wilke helps 4-H dairy judging teams prepare for competitions. “He is someone who always asks how he can help others and our activities,” says 4-H youth development specialist Karla Deaver.

Wilke, Bluel and others interested in the southwestern Missouri bovine phenomenon plan to follow Dezi and her offspring.

“You pour your heart and soul into your passion for milk production,” Bluel says. “Day in and day out, there is never a dull moment. Every once in a while, there is the unexpected in the herd. The outlier cow that makes you proud. Those are the moments—those are the cows—that keep you passionate about your love of making milk.



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