COOK STATION, Mo. – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) discussed the drought crisis during an Aug. 14 visit to the University of Missouri Wurdack Research Center.

The center, which sits on 1,200 acres in the heart of the Ozarks, is part of a network of research centers across Missouri, extending the MU 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 Wurdack Center and natural resource manager for the Missouri Agriculture Experiment Station, introduced McCaskill to area producers and several members of the Wurdack advisory board.

“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 had visited an auction barn in West Plains earlier in the day, and she said 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.” She noted that 3,000 head of cattle went through the auction, and that 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 Oct. 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 MU 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.

“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 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.

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