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Animal Science Faculty

Barry Steevens

Barry Steevens


Extension - Dairy - Milking management and mastitis control

S134D Animal Science Research Center
Division Of Animal Sciences
Columbia, MO 65211

Extension Focus

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 production systems.

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 217 700 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. ( )

Leadership for the Pasture –Based Dairy Program include the following:

  • Stacy Hamilton, Southwest Regional Dairy Specialist
  • Tony Rickard, Southwest Regional Dairy Specialist
  • Robert Kallenbach, State Forage Specialist
  • 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 housing facility.

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
  • Tony Rickard, Southwest Regional Dairy Specialist
  • Stacy Hamilton, Southwest Regional Dairy Specialist

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