Ag Connection
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This Month in Ag Connection
Financial Resources for Beginning Farmers
Using Cool Season Cereals to Extend the Grazing Season
Fall Calf Weaning - You Can’t Control the Weather
August 1997
Volume 3, Number 8

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Publishing Information
Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, UM-Columbia. Editorial board: Maryann Redelfs, Managing Editor; Parman Green, James Rogers, Mark Stewart, Melvin Brees, Don Day and Ron Alexander.

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Please send your comments and suggestions to Maryann Redelfs, Agronomy/Information Technology Specialist, University Outreach and Extension, 608 E. Spring Street, Boonville, MO 65233, call 660-882-5661, or send messages by e-mail to:

To send a message to an author, click on the author's name at the end of an article.

Financial Resources for Beginning Farmers

Several state and federal programs are available to assist persons beginning in agriculture. Many of these programs allow lenders to make farm loans at interest rates below conventional rates. These loans require approval by the lending institution subject to normal credit policy.

Three of the most recognized programs in Missouri are:

  1. Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority
  2. Missouri First Linked Deposit Program
  3. Farm Service Agency Beginning Farmer Loan Program

Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority Beginning Farmer Loan Program helps beginning farmers acquire agricultural property at reduced interest rates. The program enables lenders to receive federally tax-exempt interest on these loans. The tax savings are passed on to the customer in the form of lower interest rates.

Eligibility Requirements:

  1. You must be a Missouri resident.
  2. You must be at least 18 years of age.
  3. The proposed project must be located in Missouri.
  4. The borrower’s net worth must not exceed $200,000, and he or she must have adequate working capital and experience in the type of farming operation for which the loan is needed.
  5. A “beginning farmer” is one who has not owned, either directly or indirectly, more than 30% of the median sized farm in the county or an amount of farmland which has a value greater than $125,000.
  6. The borrower’s main occupation, after the loan is closed, must be farming or ranching (Note: This qualification does not prohibit off-farm employment, but gross farm income must exceed any off-farm income of the borrower. This does not count spouse’s income.).
  7. Partnerships are eligible if all partners meet the requirements for a loan.

A qualified borrower can borrow up to $250,000 to purchase agricultural land, farm buildings, farm equipment and breeding stock. Of that amount, all can be used for new equipment or breeding stock, but only up to $62,500 may be for used equipment or breeding stock.

To apply for this type of loan, visit with a local lender at a local lending institution (either a bank or savings and loan). The lender will have access to applications and will actually submit the application to the Authority. For more information about this program contact the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority Beginning Farmer Loan Program at (573) 751-2129.

Missouri First Linked Deposit Program is administered by the state treasurer. This program makes funds available to lenders at reduced interest rates which are passed on to the borrower. This program is five years in length and can be used in conjunction with the MO Ag and Small Business Development Authority’s Beginning Farmer Program, with similar requirements. This program goes through a local lender. For more information call their office at (800) 662-8257.

Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Beginning Farmer Down Payment Loan Program can be used with both of the above programs. This loan program provides reduced interest loans to first-time farmers. Eligible FSA borrowers must provide a cash down payment of 10% of the purchase price. FSA can lend up to 30% of the purchase price or appraised value, leaving 60% to be financed through other sources. Also, FSA has operating loan programs for beginning farmers. For more information about this program, contact your local FSA personnel.

Many other small scale programs are available to beginning farmers. Some areas of the U.S. are trying mentor programs, where young farmers are paired with more experienced farmers. The University of Nebraska’s Center for Rural Affairs has been conducting a project with beginning farmers since 1992. The purpose of the project is to share information, ideas and strategies.

There are currently twelve farm families participating in the project. The findings to date show that the group wants to keep debt minimal. Most started out small and have expanded. The main philosophy is to make sure the farm can cover all farm expenses. Off-farm income was needed initially to pay living expenses. All twelve families incorporated some livestock into their operations, because it required less investment in land and equipment, as compared to a total crop farm.

The suggestions from these twelve families to others thinking about farming include: capitalize on what you already know and enjoy; and approach investments and projects with caution. These families stress the need to learn from friends, neighbors and relatives already in the business.

Author: Mary Sobba, Farm Management Specialist

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Using Cool Season Cereals to Extend the Grazing Season

Cool season cereal grains can provide excellent quality forage that can meet or exceed grazing animal requirements. Benefits can include reduced supplemental feed costs, a chance to rest cool season perennial grass pastures, and earlier spring grazing. Crude protein can range from 15% to 34% on a dry matter basis, making them an excellent source of protein. Using such forages can extend the grazing season and in some cases offer a cash crop as well.

The primary cereal grains used for grazing are: wheat, cereal rye, barley, and oats. These vary considerably in winter hardiness and palatability. Rye is the most aggressive and winter hardy followed by wheat, barley and oats. If oats are sown in the fall they will establish quickly and provide abundant forage, but will die out after a few frosts. Oats are also the most palatable of these forages, followed by wheat, barley and rye.

Planting dates for cereals should be determined by the primary purpose of the crop. If the goal is grain production, planting dates should remain at the traditional planting time. For forage production plus a grain crop, planting should be two to three weeks earlier than normal. Disease and insect pressure can be a problem with early planting. Select resistant cultivars when considering an early planting date.

These forages can be grown alone or in combination with legumes. They also can be interseeded into existing grass sods. However, the resulting competition from the established sod can delay growth.


At planting, phosphorus and potassium fertilizer should be applied according to soil test and yield goals. Nitrogen (N) should be split-applied, with half applied at planting and the remainder in late winter or early spring prior to grazing. Applying the full rate of N in the fall will result in excessive fall growth.

Grazing can begin when pastures are 4 to 10 inches tall. Using some type of controlled grazing will better use the forage and lengthen the grazing season.

Due to the high quality of this forage, a method called time grazing can be used where animals are allowed to graze for only a short period of time. By allowing animals to graze up to four hours per day they can satisfy nutrient requirements. Animals can then be turned into a perennial grass pasture for water and mineral. This method reduces trampling and damage to plants and also improves utilization.

All of the cool season cereals also make excellent quality hay if harvested at the proper stage of maturity. The production of awns may be an anti-quality factor due to irritation and can be considered when making variety selections.

Following is a short synopsis of the cool season cereals of primary importance in Missouri.


Wheat generally produces more leaves and tillers than needed for maximum grain production, making grazing possible. In the vegetative stage, crude protein content can run from 20 to 30 percent, total digestible nutrients 80 percent, and wheat is also high in minerals and vitamins.

Wheat should be allowed to accumulate a growth of 4-8 inches prior to grazing. At this accumulation, approximately one-fourth to one-half ton of dry matter should be available to graze. Stocking rates can be as high as 500-1000 animal pounds per acre during the spring.

Continuous grazing or rotational grazing systems can be used with average daily gains reported from steers of 1.5-2.0 pounds on both systems. Forage utilization will be greater using the rotational system.

To avoid excessive trampling and damage to the plants, perennial grass pasture should be available for water and mineral feeding. Another method is to place mineral and water sources in different areas of the field. Avoid grazing during wet weather and extremely cold weather (< 15 F) as this can also damage plants.

If a grain crop is to be harvested, discontinue grazing at stem elongation (jointing – the growth stage in which the first node and head emerge above ground level). Grazed wheat will usually mature 1-4 days later than ungrazed wheat, but studies show that by grazing wheat, lodging is reduced.

Cereal Rye

Winter rye is the most cold tolerant of the cereals and has the highest potential for yield. Quality can also be high. Recommended seeding rate is 120 to 150 pounds per acre along with 40 to 80 pounds of N. This can provide 1-2 tons of feed by late fall provided that moisture is adequate.

Rye tends to start producing stems earlier in the spring than other cereals. This lowers the forage quality. Therefore, grazing management should take advantage of rye’s abundant yield before stem formation.


Barley may be used for grazing and/or grain production and provides a quality forage similar to wheat. Winter hardiness is good, again being similar to wheat. Forage production is not quite as good a wheat as it is not as leafy.

Barley is not grazed as often as wheat in the spring because it usually loses foliage to winter kill, has slower early growth, and "joints" sooner than wheat. If harvesting for grain as well as grazing, remove animals before jointing for a good grain harvest.

The best soils for barley are well-drained loams and clay loams. Barley cannot stand "wet feet," so you should avoid flat sites with poor internal drainage, such as claypans. Because barley seed is larger in volume and weighs less than wheat, you should plant 2-1/2 bushels per acre of vigorous seed with germination exceeding 85 percent if you want pasture. Barley has fertility requirements similar to those of wheat.


Oats are an excellent option for spring grazing. Seeding dates would be in early February. Oats are susceptible to disease, but make excellent succulent forage. Be sure your seed source is resistant to diseases for Missouri. Feed oats from the northern states are not suitable for seeding. Seeding rate is 110-130 pounds per acre.

Fall Oats for Emergency Forage — In certain situations, oats may be a better small grain to use as an emergency source of forage for grazing following corn harvested for silage. If the field that was harvested for silage is to be planted to corn or soybeans in the spring, then oats may be the best small grain choice. The oats will winter kill and will not interfere with spring planting.

Common feed oats can serve as a seed source. Seed immediately after silage is removed at the rate of 4-5 bushels per acre. If moisture is available, germination is rapid and a grazing height of 6-8 inches should be attained by mid-October. No additional fertility should be needed.

An additional conservation advantage will be the residue cover provided by the oats, since harvesting corn for silage leaves very little residue.

There are a few cautions to be observed when grazing cereal grains. The first is that these forages are high in protein and low in fiber which can cause bloat. Do not turn hungry animals onto cereal grain pastures. Observe animals often after turnout for potential bloaters. Feeding a supplemental grass hay or grain supplement with Bovatec or Rumensin can help lessen bloat potential. Poloxalene blocks may also be fed free choice to help eliminate bloat worries.

A second problem with grazing cereal grains is grass tetany. An easy prevention is to feed magnesium through a free-choice mineral supplement. Calcium is another mineral that can be low in cereal pastures and it also can be supplied through the free-choice mineral.

Another problem with cereal pastures is that while they are very succulent, their high moisture content can make it hard for an animal to meet its dry matter requirements. This can be aided by providing a good quality dry hay or dry feed.

Important — before seeding any cereals for forage, check herbicide labels for crop rotation restrictions.

Author: James Rogers, Livestock Specialist

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Fall Calf Weaning - You Can’t Control the Weather

Weaning Stressors

Social Stress – Disturbing the social hierarchy in the cow herd and interrupting the maternal bond between the cow and calf occur at weaning. The bawling of both the calves and the cows is evidence of this. Keeping the cows close to the calves at weaning increases the noise level, but lessons the impact of social stress on the calf.

Physical Stress – This includes castration, tagging, vaccination, implanting, dehorning and any other process where the animal is restrained, handled and subjected to a painful process. If the calves are handled roughly, deworming with a pour-on can cause stress too. By performing the typical health practices while the calves still have their dam to return to for comfort reduces the impact of the physical stress on the calves.

Environmental Stress – This is much more than just the weather. Environmental stress can include changes in diet, space and location. Keeping calves on the same diet during the weaning process helps reduce environmental stress and reduces the chance of digestive tract problems (scours, rumen acidosis). Weaning calves in the same general location on the farm where they have been while with their dams will eliminate the stress caused by moving to a new/strange location. Since the cow/calf pairs are usually on open pasture, weaning the calves in an open pasture will eliminate space as a stressor. While calves can do fine in a limited space such as a lot, if it is new to them it will cause additional stress. Weather is the obvious environmental stressor. It is the one stressor over which you have no control.

Weather during weaning is the only stress factor over which you have no control. With the day to day variability in weather during the fall, your best strategy at weaning is to minimize all other stress factors and accept the weather as it is.

Most producers use a weaning management program in which calves are moved to drylot and fed a weaning ration. Under this management program, calves will be subjected to social stress, physical stress and environmental stress (see box).

By implementing a weaning program that minimizes these stress factors, sickness should be reduced and performance improved during weaning. Research in other states has shown that when cows and calves are in adjoining pastures at weaning time the social stress of weaning is minimized. Obviously, very effective fences are required to keep the animals separated.

If castration and paste dehorning are either done at birth, or if the calves are worked thirty days prior to weaning, and if vaccinations can be given before weaning, physical stresses can be eliminated from the weaning process. Working the calves and turning them back with their dams will reduce the physical stress which is a given when processing calves. Sorting and vaccinating animals with a minimal amount of shouting and prodding will also reduce physical stress. Raising cattle that do not require physical force to move them around is challenging but achievable. Selecting cattle for good disposition and handling them without abusive force will greatly reduce stress on both the cattle and the producer.

The Forage Systems Research Center (FSRC) at Linneus has adopted an alternative weaning management program which has successfully reduced the physical and social stress factors experienced by the calves. The key to the FSRC weaning program has been use of stockpiled tall fescue pastures rather than lots for weaning. The elimination of animal concentration and the resulting dust and/or mud greatly reduces the threat of disease in the newly weaned calves. By keeping the calves on pasture, their diet needn't change. If calves are used to eating standing forage, that should be the first choice for a weaning ration.

During the 2 to 3 week weaning period, FSRC calves will typically gain 1.5 to 1.7 pounds per day with no supplemental feeding. Calves do not need to go backwards at weaning and feeding them does not have to be expensive. Since 1985, more than 1500 calves have been weaned from the FSRC herd without a single calf requiring treatment for any kind of sickness. Effective fencing is a must for pasture weaning to be successful. High tensile power fences seem to work well for this.

Authors: Mark Stewart, Livestock Specialist and Dr. James Gerrish, MU Research Assistant Professor

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University ExtensionAg Connection - August 1997 -- Revised: August 21, 1997