Strategies for pastures, finances at local soils conference
Strategies for maintaining effective pastures and finances were shared at the 84th annual Barry County Soils and Crops Conference, held Jan. 29 in Butterfield.
A panel of cattlemen led a discussion on maintaining effective pastures. Drought conditions reportedly hurt many well-established pastures in the past year. The producers offered their ideas on sustaining forages.
Frances Washick and Charles Fletcher both said their cattle prefer crab grass over most forage options. Washick, who said he fed his 100 beef cows more hay in July and August than he does in a typical winter, supplemented his fields with wheat and sprayed herbicides to keep bare spots open for crab grass to establish itself.
Fletcher grows winter annuals, rye, wheat and triticale, to supplement the fescue for his 300-cow pasture-based dairy. Feeling strong hay demands in August, Fletcher drilled to plant wheat in early September.
Emil Rosewicz relies entirely on fescue and cross fenced his pasture into 20-acre fields to rotate livestock. Jeff Kaal said he uses "a little bit of everything," from fescue and alfalfa to rye for his 280 cows.
For warm season grasses, Fletcher cuts his alfalfa twice for supplementing his crab grass. The others preferred bermudagrass. Regional agronomy specialist Tim Schnackenberg, who served as moderator, asked about planting turnips as a supplement. Each had tried turnips with limited success. Washick said his cows would not touch the turnips until the ground froze.
The producers had a range of opinions on fertilizers. Poultry litter was regarded as the best and fastest way to boost low potassium and phosphorous fields. For more specific soil needs, commercial fertilizer was viewed as more effective and reliable, since litter varies widely in quality. Schnackenberg reported Daryl Franson over 11 years built his fields from around two inches in organic matter to over four inches, thus seriously changing the demand his fields had for fertilizer.
Schnackenberg cautioned that the herbicide Grazon had residual effects, amplified by drought. The compound killed some winter wheat in addition to stopping thistles and hemlock.
Ag lending today
Gregg Bailey, with Community National Bank in Aurora, who has been making loans to ag producers for 12 years, described the framework for making loans to farmers.
Bailey said producers want to deal with someone who knows what they are doing. As a lender, Bailey said he wants to know the needs of his customers and why they need money.
Loans depend on five C's: capacity, or having funds available to repay the loan; collateral, having enough assets to secure the loan; capital, or the owners investment in the ongoing operation; condition, which speaks to the quality of the operation; and character of the customer.
With the typical turnover of cattle in herds, Bailey said using cattle for collateral will generally not work for an eight-year stretch. A farmer should have enough cattle or equipment to serve as collateral for 25 percent of a loan, and the bank can lend the rest.
A farmer will make a good impression on a banker by bringing in past records and showing a cash flow history. Documentation helps to identify a reliable customer, Bailey said. Farms also have their share of unexpected circumstances, and Bailey said bankers have to show flexibility. Communication becomes very important in understanding the customer's needs.
Government programs can often provide funds. The United States Department of Agriculture has announced the availability of micro loans up to $35,000 at good interest rates. Bailey said the paperwork has yet to be released. Other programs may require signing up and waiting for funds to become available, but may be worth the effort.
In a market where many farms have older owners, Bailey said owner financed loans can help a younger person get a start. Financing a loan has become a more viable option for people who do not want to sell the farm. The strategy offers a borrower a way to build equity in the farm that a banker will recognize and lend against later.
Bailey also spoke as president of the Southwest Cattlemen's Association for Barry, Lawrence and Dade counties. In today's market and political climate, Bailey said producers need to speak with a united voice.
Dona Goede, extension livestock specialist from Stockton, presented arguments for using artificial insemination (AI) in cattle. Bulls on their own have an average conception rate of 70 percent on the first service. AI can at least match that, and can get a cow bred that is not cycling.
Goede described three different approaches to AI, including use of hormones in feed and injections to get a cow ready to cycle. A truly effective program will impact all of the cows in the herd, even those that are not ready to cycle at the beginning.
"Trust the system," Goede said. "We're getting 66 to 70 percent conception in one day."
If all the cows become pregnant at once, Goede said the animals have natural differences so that ranchers do not have to worry about having them all calf on the same day.
Benefits to AI also include an average weaning weight of 38 pounds more, which means more money for the rancher. Studies also show AI is more reliable in the outcome
Goede encouraged keeping good records on each cows and the bulls, having low stress facilities for the cows, watching nutrition and not having too much protein in the diet at conception time, and not hauling cows to have them bred. Simple strategies, such as taking a calf away for 48 hours, may make a cow more likely to become pregnant again without increasing stress.
For more information, contact Goede at 417-276-3313 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren spoke at the opening of the conference about plans to see a one-eighth cent sales tax. The tax would raise an additional $400,000 initially for general bills.
"The tax would enable us to put on a few more deputies," Warren said, "We've got to get a handle on cattle rusting. We'll support the extension to the best of our ability, with or without the tax,"
A brisket meal was provided for those attending the conference. The event was co-sponsored by the barry County Extension Council, the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce and area agri-businesses.