“I wish I would have done this years ago,” was one of the many positive comments overheard recently at the Regional Intensive Grazing School hosted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the University of Missouri Extension Office, and the Webster County Soil and Water Conservation District in Marshfield, Mo.
“We do about 30 of these schools a year throughout the state of Missouri,” explained Mark Kennedy, state grassland conservationist out of the NRCS office in Houston, Mo. “The idea is to make it easier for the producers to get into a school, by moving them around and doing them on a number of different dates. I’ve been doing this about 20 times a year for the last 20 years,” he added with a big smile, as he prepared to direct farmers and ranchers in a field exercise to demonstrate how to properly measure a pasture. “The point of this exercise is measure a pasture to help reduce waste and overgrazing and to get more uniform grazing,” he continued. “This kind of school gives the producer the information and the tools necessary to manage the whole eco-system involved, not just the cattle and that is what makes the difference. We help to show how the soil, plant and animal systems all work together.”
Mark Kennedy was only one of various instructors from the three hosting agencies. Mark Emerson of the Webster County NRCS office, opened the school with a classroom session at a local church during the morning of the first of three days but by the afternoon, the 31 participants were out in a cow pasture on a nearby farm, enjoying a gorgeous fall day in the Ozarks, in a comfortable familiar setting.  
Mark Emerson added, “What we do here is provide information so that the landowner and producer can make the decisions that best suit his or her property and goals. We can and will provide individual conservation planning services afterward upon request, and help the landowner design where the fence lines, water lines and water tanks need to go. We can help evaluate the stocking rates and forage on a particular farm. We don’t tell anyone what they have to do at these schools. We make the information available and let the producer take it from there as to what will work best on his or her particular operation.”
Mark Green, the District Conservationist for Greene and Webster Counties agreed. “This is the best informational and educational thing we’ve done in recent years. We do five to seven of these schools right here in southwest Missouri each year spring to fall. And when you hear back from producers about what a great help it has been to them, or like the gent who said he wished he would have done this years before, it makes you feel good.”
He continued, “Of course, the hardest part is covering lots of material in just two to three days. I like to say we have everything but the kitchen sink in here. I’ve had guys come back after taking the school the first time and getting their system all set up and going, to go through the school a second time because there is just so much information to take in. It’s all about helping the producer to manage better, cut his feed costs and even help with wildlife habitat with managing native grasses as well. This is not about available programs through the state or the federal government. Their local offices can tell them about those. This is about better management and we even have folks coming from out of state to learn more. We’ve also gone over to Kansas for the last five years to help them in fescue country.”
Kenneth Parsons, the local landowner hosting the producers from a dozen different southern Missouri counties, has lent his land to this effort in the past and was pleased to do so again. “Last year at this time, it rained so hard on us we ended up in the barn. By being out here, the producers can see exactly what they need to do to make this work on their land. Four or five years ago, I had the well house for this system installed on one of the days of the school, so everyone got to see that, too.”
Jody Lawson, district manager for the Webster County Soil and Water District was also in attendance as one of the local hosts and thrilled with the turnout. “We’ve got a full school and beautiful weather so you can’t ask for better than that,” she concluded happily.
For more information contact your local USDA Service Center or Extension Center.


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