Wurdack Field Day offers forage and silvopasture research, honors a friend

Attendees at the MU Wurdack Research Center had the opportunity to examine a wide range of forest products. In a 2006 study, it was estimated that the Missouri Forest Product Industries annually contribute $4.32 billion to Missouri’s economy. "In addition to wood products, trees also produce foods we enjoy eating and help clean the air--they are one of our nation’s great renewable resources," said Dusty Walter, MU agroforestry research specialist.

Throughout the summer and fall, CAFNR’s research centers around the state host field days to connect the public with University of Missouri faculty, staff and students. In addition to presenting the latest developments in agricultural research and efficiency, experts also discuss emerging issues, such as how to deal with high nitrate levels in forages due to drought, and how to comply with new regulations about the interstate sale and transport of bulls.

The 2011 Field Day season concluded at Wurdack Research Center, Crawford County, with presentations on silvopasture, how to improve forage quality, and deal with changes in the cattle market. Attendees also saw the dedication of the Munson Education Building.

The wagon tour stopped at the Wurdack education building to honor the late Ralph “Gene” Munson, an entomologist at MU for 40 years and a driving force in developing Wurdack Research Center into a dynamic resource for Missouri. The education center was renamed in Munson’s honor, and many of his family members were present for the presentation.

“The whole family was overwhelmed, said Donna Thomas, Munson’s daughter and administrative associate for the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station. “I think my dad would have been shocked at hearing how many people he touched.  He was extremely proud of that place and considered it his farm. He was instrumental at getting researchers involved and helping Brent Booker and John Poehlmann turn it into the place it is today,” she continued.

Wayne Bailey, a forage entomologist at MU who worked closely with Munson, said his friend would be upset with him if he didn’t mention teamwork.

“He talked to regional specialists, the advisory committee, the state specialist, and anyone who would listen about what we needed to do here at Wurdack,” Bailey said. Baily and Munson came to Wurdack together in 1985 to study forage entomology.  “We saw great potential, but the pasture was depleted and the herd was made up of every cow they didn’t want on the rest of the system, including fence jumpers,” Baily recalled.

Bailey also shared the personal impact Munson had on many people as an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.

Brent Booker, farm manager at Wurdack, said Munson was someone he could count on.

“It didn’t matter what time of night whether it had to do with Wurdack or my family I could call him and I guarantee he would give you his honest opinion,” Booker said.

After the dedication,  the tour continued up the hillside to see ongoing silvopasture research. Silvopasture is an agroforestry land management practice that combines trees with forage and livestock production. Multiple agroforestry research projects are in progress at Wurdack Research Center. Dusty Walter, MU agroforestry research specialist, showcased one established silvopasture and another short-leaf pine silvopasture on a rocky hillside where high quality hardwoods, such as walnut and oak, won’t grow readily.

Attendees had many questions, and many, such as Ron Parres, walked away with a new perspective on managing forests. “Before today I viewed forested areas on our farm as problem areas that could best be managed by clear cutting,” Parres said. Parres was impressed with the practicality and the aesthetics of a silvopasture. “It looks gorgeous; we hope to develop our agrotourism operation at Moon Dance Farm near Owensville, Mo.,” he said.

Wurdack Research Center is part of a network of 20 research centers around the state at which the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources conducts impactful research benefitting Missouri farmers and agricultural professionals.

The information sharing isn’t one-way, however. “The late Harry Minor, state extension grain crops specialist said ‘from the interactions and observations of farmers at any field day I could have enough research for the next 10 years,’” said John Poehlmann, assistant direct of the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station.

Bob Thompson said he comes to the Field Day every year, and always learns something new. He also sold one of his registered Hereford bulls to Wurdack Research Center, and he wants to see how the calves he sired are shaping up. Thompson said he gained new insights about the grazing wedge and also enjoyed the research on different feeding regimens at the annual event.