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Joplin meeting will tell dairy producers how to cut feed costs


Dairy cows that eat more grass in the pasture will eat less processed feed in the milking parlor. That cuts feed costs and makes the milk check go further.

Speakers at the second Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference will explain theory and practice of pasture-based dairies, July 8 to 10 at Joplin, Mo.

"This is for dairy producers who want to graze in the U.S.,said Joe Horner, University of Missouri Extension dairy economist.

The program features MU Extension specialists in forage, economics, nutrient management and dairy. However, dairy producers will present a big part of the program, Horner said.

"The program features dairy producers from Missouri and New Zealand," he said. "Farmers like to hear the practical experience of other farmers." Those attending can tour grazing dairies before, during and after the conference.

Typically, grazing dairy operators divide their farms into pasture paddocks using electric fences. The milking herd is moved to a fresh paddock after each milking, morning and night.

Producers measure grass growth and enter the data into software that calculates a "grazing wedge," which producers use to decide which paddock is best for grazing next.

The first grazing conference, held at Monett, Mo., in 2006, attracted 200 people.

"We hope to draw a larger crowd this year and have moved to a bigger conference center," Horner said. The group will meet at the Holiday Inn, Joplin, Mo.

The program opens with an optional tour of the dairy grazing farm at the University of Missouri Southwest Center, Mt. Vernon, starting at 9 a.m., July 8. The formal program begins at 1 p.m., in Joplin.

Randy Mooney, a Missouri grazing-dairy producer and chair of the National Milk Producers Federation, will open the program with "Redesigning our Dairy Industry."

Later that afternoon, Charles Fletcher, a grazing-dairy producer, Purdy, Mo., will explain how he designed his grazing system. Since switching to grazing from conventional dairying, he has doubled and redoubled his milking herd.

Tony Rickard, MU Extension regional dairy specialist in Monett, said producers must shift their focus when going to a pasture-based dairy. "The main management decisions relate to grass. A philosophy we learned in New Zealand is, ÔTake care of the grass and the cows will take care of themselves.'"

"The combination of high feed costs and lower milk prices has increased interest in learning ways to cut costs," Horner said.

"Dairy producers interested in grazing are no longer limited to southwest Missouri," Rickard said. "They are all across the state."

Two optional tours with two farms on each tour will be held after the conference. Maps will be distributed at the meeting.

The registration fee is $150 in advance or $175 at the door. Participants are encouraged to sign up before June 24 to assist tour planners. The Missouri Dairy Association will reimburse its members $100.

The fee includes all talks, a dinner and reception on the first day, and lunch on the second day. Buses will take attendees to two area farms during the conference.

A book of proceedings will be available later for $25.

More information, including conference agenda, registration details and proceedings of the 2006 conference, is available at http://agebb.missouri.edu/dairy/grazing/conference/. Registration information also is available from the MU Conference Office at 573-882-9551 or muconf9@missouri.edu.

The Holiday Inn, 3615 Range Line Rd., Joplin, has a block of rooms at a special conference rate. Call 417-782-1000 for reservations.

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