Agriculture program boosts options; serves as technology leader
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,
May 27, 2005 – The Southeast Missouri State University Demonstration Farm recently set a new record selling price at the Southeast Missouri Show Me Heifer Auction in Fruitland, Mo., with a pen of five heifers selling for $2,200 each. The farm also had the highest average sale price for all producers with heifers at the sale on May 7.
The University Farm has participated in the Missouri Extension’s Show Me Select Heifer program for several years. Producers must have heifers with proper genetics, health records, vaccinations and guaranteed with calf (via ultrasound) in order to participate in the program.
“The farm’s performance at the sale demonstrates the success of our cow/calf beef operation and validates the quality of our herd and the applied research that is taking place,” said Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies and assistant provost of Extended Learning.
Dr. Wes Mueller, chair of the Southeast Department of Agriculture, agreed.
“We sell our cattle on the basis of quality rather than just weight, giving us a higher price for our animals,” he said.
“The Demonstration Farm just had a base of cattle with unknown genetics when it transitioned from a dairy operation in 1994,” said Dr. Bill Ellis, Southeast professor of agriculture. “We set forth to demonstrate how to improve a herd of cattle, and we chose to improve this herd in the area of quality beef for the consumer, which we did by using the best bulls of known genetics in the nation. Our goal was to produce the best-quality beef possible.
“The heifers sold recently had three generations of known genetics in their ancestry, which is what enabled them to be so popular with bidders at the sale,” Ellis said.
As the quality of the herd has improved, the University Farm has become a leader in the use and development of new technology that also enhances beef quality.
“Dr. Ellis looks at the technology that is being developed at various research institutions and private companies and then incorporates the technology into our operation,” said Mueller. “The Demonstration Farm serves as a place to experiment with the technology and show other producers how it can be incorporated into their own operation. The result is efficient production of high-quality beef.
Technology currently in use at the farm includes pasture aeration, rotational-grazing programs, synchronized artificial insemination (AI), efficient methods of AI breeding with a portable breeding barn, and numerous small technologies that, when combined, make a big difference in the overall efficiency of the operation, according to Mueller. These include a solar powered watering system and electric cattle guards, he said.
“We also try to demonstrate the latest cattle-handling techniques to emphasize safety and efficiency to our students and to cattle producers,” Ellis added.
Southeast agriculture students play a big role in the success of the farm.
“Our students, under the leadership of agriculture faculty and staff, do everything,” Mueller said.
“Students begin hands-on learning at the farm from their very first year on campus,” Ellis added.
Opportunities also exist for students to perform full-time summer internships on the Demonstration Farm, Ellis says.
The success of the University’s Demonstration Farm echoes the overall growth and success of Southeast’s Department of Agriculture.
The Southeast Missouri University Foundation recently purchased farm property in Gordonville, Mo., that will ultimately become the new home of the University Demonstration Farm.
“This property not only allows us to continue our cattle operation, but will allow us to expand to row crops and other farming operations as well,” Mueller said. “It is our hope and expectation that we can develop an agronomy (field crop) program patterned after the cow/calf operation we presently run; that is, incorporate the technology of the day to produce high-quality products more efficiently,” he said.
Mueller says traditional crops like corn, soybeans and wheat likely will be produced, and the department is considering other possibilities, including vegetable production and other crops of interest to growers in the area.
The row crop program will allow students the opportunity to work with fertilizers, herbicides and cultivation techniques, according to Shaw. Students will learn how to increase productivity with better genetics and management techniques.
The relocation of the Demonstration Farm to the new property and the new I-55 interchange, which is being planned on, or adjacent to, the current farm site, have paved the way for Southeast to develop the current farm property for other uses. The University is considering the development of the farm property for the creation of an applied research park over a period of several years, said Dennis Roedemeier, chief executive officer of the Missouri Research Corporation and executive director of the Southeast Missouri State University Innovation Center.
Mueller says this development will include a new viniculture program.
“The growing of grapes is becoming more and more important in this area as farmers look for alternatives to the traditional crops grown,” he said.
The viniculture program will be part of the University’s Innovation Center, which works to develop initiatives to assist faculty and businesses in applied research projects in plant and life sciences, value-added agriculture and manufacturing technology.
Dr. Steve Millett, a plant pathology specialist in the Department of Agriculture, is working to establish the viticulture program, according to Mueller. It will be patterned after the present Demonstration Farm and will demonstrate how the latest technology can be incorporated into viticulture, he says.
These latest developments come shortly after the construction of the new Charles L. Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse, which greatly enhances the horticulture program, Mueller says.
“The 11,660-square-foot greenhouse allows us to do things we were unable to do in the old location,” said Mueller. “The old space was limiting both inside and out. We’re adding a new dimension to our horticulture program with a turf grass management specialty. With the new greenhouse and the surrounding area, we’ll be able to establish demonstration plots and set up a program similar to what we’re doing at the Demonstration Farm, that is demonstrating the latest technology in turf grass management,” he said.
In addition to incorporating and exhibiting the latest technology, the new greenhouse will provide numerous experiential-learning opportunities for students, Mueller says.
“Denise Pingel, our greenhouse manager, is great at working with students,” he said. “Students get experience in everything from planting to sales. Some students come in with experience; others with none. They can pretty much run a greenhouse operation after graduation.”
The University also operates the state’s only rice research farm west of Malden, Mo. The 110-acre farm serves as a research facility to develop new varieties. The farm also demonstrates the best management practices for rice production and what varieties are best suited for the area, and it provides yet another opportunity for hands-on student involvement.
“The focus of our agriculture program at Southeast is very applied,” Mueller stressed. “Everything we do involves students, so they not only graduate with the necessary classroom learning but also with the practical knowledge that will help them as they begin working in the real world. Students in our program will have the knowledge and experience necessary, giving them a competitive edge over others when they enter the marketplace.”