Keeping cows healthy and eating more grass are themes of the dairy tour at the annual field day, Sept. 14, at the University of Missouri Southwest Center, Mt. Vernon
MU specialists will talk about herd health and easier ways to manage grazing paddocks during hourly tours of the grazing dairy on the research farm. Stacey Hamilton, MU Extension dairy specialist, Greenfield, will demonstrate a C-DAX, an ATV mounted device for automatically measuring forage in grazing paddocks. The machine, imported from New Zealand, would replace the traditional method of walking through grazing paddocks with a measuring stick or a rising-plate meter.
"As far as I know, we have the only C-DAX in the United States," Hamilton says. "We're evaluating it at the Southwest Center and on cooperating dairy farms in the area."
Chris Davis, MU dairy herdsman, will tell how he uses grazing wedges to manage forage paddocks on the university grazing dairy. Wedge graphs, displayed on a computer screen, guide where cows should be grazed next after each milking. The wedge also guides hay harvest and fertility applications.
Davis is prepared to hear the most-often asked question: "Which grass should we grow?" MU researchers are shifting the grazing paddocks from a variety of forages to two primary grasses, perennial ryegrass and a soft-leaf novel endophyte tall fescue. New seedings will be planted this fall. "We want to identify the cool-season perennial that works best in a grazing system," he says.
Barry Steevens, MU Extension dairy specialist, will explain the seasonal approach to controlling mastitis. Mastitis control is mainly a matter of sanitation, Steevens says. "The MU grazing dairy farm, with clean grass paddocks, tends to have lower rates of mastitis infection than the state average. Cows grazing on grass usually have a fresh, clean bed each day."
The dairy tour is one of five tours. Other topics include beef, forage, horticulture and alternative biofuels.
Tours begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. The MU Southwest Center, a part of the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station, is located about four miles southwest of Mt. Vernon. For more information, contact Rich Crawford at 417-466-2148.