Dealing with Drought

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) meets with producers at Wurdack Research Center to hear their concerns about the drought

Dry pasture near Cape Girardeau Airport with soybean crop.Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) visited Wurdack Research Center Tuesday as part of her statewide tour to 20 rural communities across Missouri.

The Center, which sits on 1200 acres in the heart of the Ozarks, is part of a network of research centers across Missouri, extending the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ (CAFNR) research to more than 14,000 acres to meet the regional research and demonstration needs of agricultural producers and natural resource managers.

Dusty Walter, superintendent of the Center and natural resource manager for the Missouri Agriculture Experiment Station, introduced McCaskill to

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) addresses a question from Fred Dahlberg, who asked how to improve cooperation between parties.   Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) addresses a question from Fred Dahlberg, who asked how to improve cooperation between parties.

area producers and several members of the Wurdack advisory board who attended the discussion.

“Cattle are our main source of revenue for operating costs, so we’re facing the same stresses as other producers across the state,” Walter said.

McCaskill visited an auction barn in West Plains earlier in the day, and the effects of the drought gripping the Midwest were clear. “I don’t need to tell the people in the room that we’ve got a real crisis when it comes to water and feed,” McCaskill said. She noted they had 3,000 head of cattle go through the auction and last year at this time that number was closer to 500.

“Not only do we have to deal with the short term crisis of how we keep these herds in place, we’ve got to deal with the long term crisis of how we replenish these herds and that’s where a farm like this really comes in,” McCaskill said. “You all have done the research and you’re sharing with Missouri farmers the right way to replenish a herd, the right way to work through a crisis like this with the best possible outcomes.”

Wurdack Research Center was the first site in the state to demonstrate rotational grazing, starting in 1982. “It’s a great way to manage your forage through livestock grazing and keep your animals healthy,” Walter said.

The Center will host its annual Field Day October 5. Researchers will share strategies to deal with and recover from the drought, including the following presentations:

  • Supplementation Strategies for Poor Quality Forage
  • Herd Culling Strategies
  • Stretching Short Hay Supplies
  • Renovating Forages—What To Do After the Drought
  • Using Tree Leaves as Forage, or Not
  • Dung Beetles—Improving the Pasture

With the visit to Wurdack, McCaskill said she’s visited almost all of the research centers across the state—from T.E. “Jake” Fisher Delta Research Center in the Bootheel to the Graves-Chapple Research Center in the northwest corner of Missouri.

Producers explain their concerns about hay shortages to Sen. Claire McCaskill at Wurdack Research Center near Cook Station, Mo.

“The research that goes on at these farms is really important to get what we know at the University setting out to our practitioners. We’ve done that better in Missouri than any state in the country and I’m very proud of that and I think it’s important that we keep that support there,” she said. “When I look at FAPRI (MU’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute) I’m always so proud because whenever there’s an issue about our food supply, about food safety, about prices of commodities and how it relates to feeding the world, in Washington everybody goes to FAPRI to get the right information.”

Several producers wanted to know about how to acquire hay without breaking the bank. McCaskill said she would work to find a solution and encouraged attendees to pressure their legislators to bring the Farm Bill to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

CAFNR is changing the core components of society that impact what we eat, where we live and how we’ll face tomorrow. As the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, we are at the forefront of research and education, working toward global sustainability.