Q&A with Reagan Bluel

Reagan is a field specialist in dairy and the education director for Missouri Dairy.

Reagan Bluel named interim superintendent of Southwest Research Center
Reagan Bluel named interim superintendent of Southwest Research Center on July 31.

What do you do in your current role with the University of Missouri?

As an MU Extension field specialist in dairy and education director for Missouri Dairy, I serve dairy producers statewide through on-farm assessments and learning events. My programming ranges from small group, like Women in Dairy or full farm benchmarking, to large events such as the statewide dairy expo and summer social. Hands-on learning courses are my favorite to teach, such as artificial insemination or udder dissection. Individually, I consult a number of herds on ruminant nutrition. It’s so exciting to watch how a subtle dietary change can impact a farm’s profit or production. Feed costs typically represent about 60% of production costs… so there’s opportunity to make a big difference in the bottom line.

How long have you worked in this position?

I joined MU Extension nine years ago and began the partnership with Missouri Dairy in 2020.

What is your favorite part about the work you do?

Quite simply, helping dairy producers. Dairy farmers are the hardest working folks on the planet — and I take pride in being a “go to” resource to bounce ideas off of to help identify ways to improve profitability through research-based/data-backed decisions. When I don’t know the answer, I enjoy learning with the farm family as we seek connections with other specialists.

How are you helping MU A&E Extension reach our #2xAg2030 goal?

I strive to help grow the dairy industry in the state of Missouri through building relationships. In addition to on-farm producer relationships, these relationships extend beyond the farmgate and state lines. Through the Dairy Science Digest, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview global researchers to bring cutting-edge science to dairy producers using the podcast platform. Ultimately, this has created a network of national and global colleagues I can lean into for assistance problem solving in the most unusual cases; a relationship much deeper than the 25-minute podcast. More locally, farm succession is a key to reaching the #2xAg2030 goal for the Missouri dairy industry. Identifying farms who have the next generation in the hanger, and working to foster knowledge transfer and farm transfer is a passion of mine. This has been increasingly important through this time of a high rate of herd retirements.

What is something your CAFNR and MU Extension teammates may not know about you?

My girls and I own and operate a tiny dairy herd, Blue-Roots Farm. Daily we milk three head twice per day. It all started from a 4-H dairy March calf – while I often shake my head when I think about it, I can’t think of a better way to raise my girls to learn responsibility and respect for agriculture. My husband and I are both the “first generation” to farm. While I can’t be certain how sustainable this is, it’s sure been a fun ride that I am willing to continue while the girls have interest.

What is your hometown, place of high school graduation and degrees/universities?

I was born and raised in Sedalia, MO. I graduated from LaMonte R-IV then headed to MU to study animal sciences (B.S.) and ruminant nutrition (M.S.). Immediately following my dissertation defense, I went to Ohio State to manage Waterman Dairy, the teaching herd in Columbus, OH. While managing the Grade A dairy for the largest land grant in the nation was an amazing chapter in my life, I needed to be home to care for my aging parents. As field faculty, I’ve frequently referenced back to “daily dairy” in my mind when making best management practice recommendations that are realistic for producers often spread too thin.

My entire career has focused on the land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach to improve the lives of dairy producers!