Annual MU Ag Field Day enlightens 1,800 FFA’ers on variety of ag topics

Steve Chapman

Reagan Bluel, who supervised the cannulated steers at Ag Field Day, speaks to students about the digestive system of a cow. (Photo by Steve Chapman)

With the help of M.U. Extension’s Jill Scheidt, right, University of Missouri researcher Ryan Milhollin details the economics of hemp production during a presentation at last week’s Southwest Center Field Day. (Photo by Ryan Squibb)

The Southwest Research Center, Mt. Vernon, held their annual Ag Field Day event on Thursday, Sept. 12. About 1,800 FFA students from 50 school districts and 75 community members attended the event, which hosted over 70 speakers representing 40 agriculture businesses and organizations at booths set up around the center’s grounds.
Participants in Ag Field Day had the opportunity to gain information over a wide variety of topics, including beef cattle reproduction, construction in agriculture, veterinary medicine and the use of social media in agriculture. One of the most popular attractions, however, were the cannulated steers, supervised by Reagan Bluel, a dairy specialist with the MU Extension in Barry County. Also called fistulated steers, the animals each have a hole surgically cut into their sides which allows people to reach into their stomachs and study their digestive system. Bluel estimated about 1,000 FFA students chose to put their arms inside the steers.
The study of cannulated steers, Bluel said, allows cattle breeders to better understand what to feed their herds.
“They’re going to have the experiential learning of interacting with the rumen, and specifically the steer, and better understanding the way he digests the food,” she said.
 Another popular attraction was the photo booth set up by Country Acres Family Fun Farm, where the different FFA chapters could have group photos taken. Scott Cloud, who represented Country Acres, also gave them a glimpse at career possibilities in agriculture tourism.
“We’re … increasing awareness on ag tourism, farm entertainment enterprises, and possible opportunities that could present to them and their future, and just explaining some of the uniqueness of what we do and the challenges associated with it,” he said.
Brian Leiby, an agriculture instructor at Marionville High School, brought 40 students to Ag Field Day. He said the event gave his students a real-world connection to agriculture that they wouldn’t find in the classroom.
“Generally speaking, most of our kids are really interested in the field of agriculture, but sometimes their living situations don’t always make a conducive situation where they understand a lot of the stuff that’s going on,” he said. “So, one of the things that I really like is that kids can come up here and see practical applications for things we teach in our classroom, but may not get to see every day.”
A new topic at Ag Field Day this year was Industrial Hemp. Alan Freeman made a presentation on the regulations for Industrial Hemp, which he said are still being developed, while Ryan Milhollin spoke about the economics, risks and use of hemp.
Currently, Milhollin said, most hemp producers are harvesting it to make CBD oil, which costs over $15,500 per acre to produce, but can bring a return of up to $36,000 per acre. However, with the large number of growers who are producing CBD oil, the profit margin may fall.
“We’re seeing it already,” Milhollin said. “The CBD selling price is going down around harvest. A lot of acreage in the United States, and a lot of farmers are growing it. I think that profitability is going to go down over time, but it’s been very, very profitable for farmers, too.”
Ag Field Day was staffed with about 50 volunteers who handled various jobs throughout the event.
“Volunteers are essential to an effort of this magnitude. We could not host events such as this without the wonderful help of all our volunteers,” said David Cope, superintendent of the Southwest Research Center.
The next event planned at Southwest Research Center is Alternative Tree Crop Field Day, on Friday, Sept. 20 from 1-5 p.m. For more information on this event, contact Patrick Byers at the MU Extension at (417) 859-2044 or Andrew Thomas at the Southwest Research Center at (417) 466-0065.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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