Sarah Kenyon, Agronomy Specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, said, "The main purpose is to teach farmers about rotational grazing. From the plant, animal, and soil aspects to the farm, water, soil preservation. Economics are thrown in to talk about all aspects."
Participants who complete the Grazing School qualify for a cost-share program, which allows farmers to apply for government reimbursement when certain improvements are made. Cost-sharing is available for fencing, wells, water tanks and other improvements which are outlined during Grazing School. If approved, farmers can seek reimbursement. Kenyon said, "The Grazing School is very extensive and a large number of people attend to qualify for the cost-share program."
The Grazing School took place at the Alton Courthouse conference room, and at the farms of Mark Homer and Casey Cox, both of Alton. Homer and Cox shared information about their operations, and the benefits that come from using rotational grazing.
The Alton Grazing School was sponsored by the University of Missouri Extension, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Oregon County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Kenyon said there was a lot of interest shown in the class this year. "Enrollment comes and goes, but this year we had good numbers," said Kenyon. Twenty participants took part in the Grazing School representing Oregon, Howell, Ripley, Carter, Shannon, and Douglas counties. The minimum to hold the school is ten participants. The Alton Grazing School is held every other year."
Kenyon said the Grazing School benefits the community by teaching farmers how to properly rotate animals. "If you are doing a good job rotating your animals, the grass forage is able to rest and then you grow more forage. Over time a lot of people can add more animals to their herd or feed less hay, because it is expensive to cut or purchase. Rotational grazing comes from growing more grass and becoming more efficient," said Kenyon.
The participants learned how changing current practices could help them improve their farming practices. Soil, water, economic, livestock, etc. were some of the ranges of topics discussed. There are other Grazing Schools that take place in the area, but in Alton it is held every other year. "This year we had a good group of people that asked a lot of questions," said Kenyon.
Speakers for the school were Mark Kennedy- a state grass land specialist from the NRCS, Sarah Kenyon- Agronomy Specialist, Logan Wallace- Livestock Specialist, and Stacey Hambilton, Agriculture Economical Specialist all with the University of Missouri Extension. Other speakers also included Jeff Lawrence, a district conservationist with the NRCS, and Jason Kemper and Freda Johnson with the Oregon County Soil and Water Conservation District.