Profitable and sustainable livestock production through improvements in
efficiency of animal production.
Description: Missouri’s dairy industry ranks 17th nationally with 115,000 dairy cows. There are
approximately 1800 licensed family farms producing both Grade A and Manufacturing Grade
milk. The average Grade A dairy consists of 80 cows with 12 cow Amish herds to the largest
being a 4,000 cow privately owned family dairy in Northeast Missouri. The average 80 cow dairy
manages over $500,000 in investment with annual milk and livestock sales in excess of $180,000.
The high cost of capital investment for confinement style dairies has resulted in increasing herd
size to spread out fixed costs over more cows along with using improved technologies to increase
milk yield per cow (BST, TMR, sexed semen).
An alternative approach has been the adoption of a pasture based program. Dairy producers
maximize quality forage which is grazed by the dairy herd and minimize high capital costs
associated with producing, harvesting and storing feedstuffs associated with confinement type
I Pasture based dairy program
The pasture based dairy extension program began in 1999 with the Southwest Missouri Family
Dairy Farm Project supported by an “Extension based Outreach and Development Grant”. This
program used a group learning style to teach dairy producers how to do three things: 1. How to
develop a written business plan. 2. How to use a modern record keeping system. 3. How to adopt
management-intensive grazing techniques. Regional dairy core groups meet monthly to learn
through group discussion pasture walks (adopted from New Zealand extension techniques),
seminars, and field tours. A very different mind set exists with the dairymen at the pasture walks
compared to traditional dairy meetings.
In 2006 the pasture based dairy program has evolved to several Missouri producers growing their
herds to 300-600 cows. Research and demonstration support by the University of Missouri
Agriculture Experiment Station at Mt. Vernon has provided dairy clientele knowledge on
producing high quality pasture forage and management of the intensively grazed pasture. Many
pastures in Southwest Missouri traditionally have been endophyte infected fescue. The grass as it
matures becomes very unpalatable and is toxic to dairy cows. Alternative forages such as
perennial rye grass, Red River crabgrass, cereal and annual rye as well as improved palatable
fescues have been shown to provide quality pasture forage for the grazing dairy cow.
Early growth of the Missouri grazing dairy industry was a significant factor in influencing outside
investors from New Zealand to locate in Missouri. In 2007 there will be five different New
Zealand investment groups managing grass based dairies in Missouri. These “next generation
dairies” will be managing herds of 500-3,000 cows.
The presence of the New Zealand dairies adds to the economic infrastructure in rural Missouri.
They also bring technologies from New Zealand that otherwise would not be available to
Missouri grass based dairies. The investment by the New Zealand groups currently exceeds $50
million. By 2008, planned expansion and growth by these new dairies is expected to exceed $63
million, generate $28 million in milk sales, add $87 million to total economic impact and sustain
700 additional jobs in the state of Missouri. The New Zealand farm managers bring a “business
like attitude” with them which is readily shared with others.
These dairies were attracted to Missouri by the on-going dairy grazing research, demonstration,
and extension efforts being conducted by the University of Missouri.
In 2006 the first Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference was held with nearly 200 attendees from 21
different states. A web page has been used to make the proceedings of the conference available
nation wide. (http://agebb.missouri.edu/dairy/grazing/index.htm )
Leadership for the Pasture –Based Dairy Program include the following:
Richard Crawford, Superintendent, MU Southwest Center
Chris Davis, Dairy Manager, MU Southwest Dairy Center
Barry Steevens, State Extension Dairy Specialist
Joe Horner, Dairy/Beef Economist, Commercial Agriculture
Wayne Prewitt, West Central Regional Ag. Business Specialist
Ted Probert, South Central Regional Dairy specialist
Ron Young, Grazing Dairy specialist, Retired MU Regional Dairy Specialist
II Traditional Dairy Extension Program
Extension programs addressing the needs of both types of dairying systems are conducted. The“traditional” dairy extension program is oriented to addressing needs of the confinement dairies
statewide. The overall focus is “Enhanced Profitability and Sustainability”. The Dairy Team
addresses problems and issues currently facing dairy producers. Effective communication
vehicles include the distant learning web page developed to provide current technology
. Recent examples of individual activities include the Southeast
Missouri Dairy Development Project (business plan) and development of a “compost” type dairy
Issues addressed include dairy cattle care and comfort, dairy waste management, herd health and
mastitis control, dairy nutrition and financial management. An effective learning tool has been the
small group sessions. In Southeast Missouri a group of dairy producers (20) have a structure
called QDM, Quality Dairy Management). They meet every six weeks and they initiate subject
discussion supported by appropriate university extension personnel. This activity is similar in
concept to the “pasture walks”.
Leadership for the “Traditional” Dairy Extension Program Include:
Barry Steevens, State Dairy Specialist
Joe Horner, Dairy/Beef Economist, Commercial Ag
Scott Poock, Dairy/Beef Extension Veterinarian, College Veterinary Medicine
Joe Zulovich, Ag Engineer, Commercial Ag
Charles Fulhage, MU Ag Engineer
Ted Probert, West Central Regional Dairy Specialist