MU specialists get re-trained to teach hot new farm topics


I was re-schooled on animal science last week. MU Extension livestock specialists came to campus for In-Service Education, or ISE.

That put me in a bind as the regional farm management specialist came for those two days. As an Ag journalist covering all farming, I’m caught in events with two vital sessions going at the same time.

I chose animals and thanked fate agronomy specialists weren’t here also. They get re-schooled in crop seasons.

The area livestock specialists face challenges helping farmers deal with hot topics. Now, top of the news includes death losses from high-nitrate hay. That’s devastating to some herd owners who’ve lost half their herds.

Two years of drought caused toxic high-nitrate forage to be stored. That can be stemmy baled hay; or deadly silage made from drought corn or sorghums. Lab tests for nitrate can head off disaster.

Deaths are spotty. But, I recall writing stories last summer about how spotty rains fell and droughts occurred. Not all farms got the same rainfall, or lack of rain.

The animal doctors from MU Vet School came to teach as well. Anyone who’s heard Dr. Tim Evans, doctor death, speak knows no one nodded off.

Dave Patterson keeps improving the science of inseminating heifers. He now teaches split-time artificial insemination. That improves the long used Fixed-Time AI. Also, they dive deep in genomic testing of all females in a herd. DNA allows more precise EPDs or Expected Progeny Differences.

Our keynote speaker Tom Brink of Top Dollar Angus bragged on MU specialists who help Missouri farmers lead the way to quality beef. He sees the impact Show-Me-Select protocols leave on cattle breeding across the USA.

We think of SMS heifers with better genetics that change terminal carcass quality, such as marbling. That grows more USDA Prime beef, which fetch premium grid prices at packing plants.

Better quality beef changed consumer meat purchases. They buy more beef.

With Timed AI, even small beef herds use top genetics. Small farm owners buy semen straws from top bulls in their breed, even if they can’t afford top bulls for a few cows.

Precision breeding allows small farms to attract their own niche market buyers.

As I heard deep science based on DNA, I wondered what farm management agents were hearing across campus. Recent stories in the Wall Street Journal raise concerns about farmers. Lenders worry about dropping repayment rates from borrowers.

Then Scott Brown, MU Ag economist, came over to share his outlook.

He spoke more on changing consumer tastes in meat. Beef is gaining. But, if small producers don’t change, will there be a market for their low-grade products?

In his talk, Tom Brink said the USDA Select grade beef supply is disappearing, crowded out by higher Prime and Choice grades. If small producers don’t switch to quality genetics, they’ll produce Select. This topic brought animated conversation.

Will herd owner who can’t sell a semi-trailer load of uniform quality calves survive? Then, will beef become consolidated like big pork and poultry. That should create talk at farmer’s coffee table in local cafés.

Switching to the Show-Me-Select protocols has changed many small herds by bringing profits. 

MU SMS teaches more than genetics. It’s whole-herd management. Pre-breeding exams add as much to profits as genetics.

Coffee talk grew animated at the ISE. Questions of the future abound. Can counties imposing health ordinances blocking animal agriculture survive? Agriculture remains No. 1 industry in Missouri. Can a rural county support jobs if agriculture is cut.

Talk of tariffs and busted trade deals raised more questions. Where do we sell the meat we do produce, and gearing up to make? 

In a rural recession can farm families whack present family-living expenses? Can all the kids have a new pickup truck to go to school?

There were many questions. No quick answers. Turn it over to the morning coffee clubs. Send your thoughts to

Keep talks perking! 


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment