Missouri producers aim to raise grass, cattle and future generations

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Cope Farms - 3 generations

Three generations actively work toward the future of Cope Farms. Left to right are Glen Cope’s son, Orran, who represents the fifth generation on the farm; Glen; O.D.; and Matthew.

As a fourth-generation cattle producer helping raise the fifth, Glen Cope knows Cope Farms can’t afford any cracks in the foundation of the operation.

“We’re as much grass producers as we are livestock producers,” Cope says. “I spend at least as much time growing good, quality forage as I devote to our cattle. Forage is such an integral part of our operation.”

When Cope’s great-grandfather bought land near Aurora in southwestern Missouri, he likely didn’t realize he picked a perfect spot for a forage-based cattle operation. Although some of the ridges had been cleared to raise strawberries and tomatoes, most of those Ozark Mountains were timberland in 1910. Today, Glen runs a commercial cow-calf herd with his brother Matthew, their father O.D. and their families.

“We’ve never had a row crop on our ground,” Glen says. “This is cattle country. It’s important to our future we keep it that way.”

Through the first half of the 1900s, the Copes worked to clear 40-acre blocks of trees and establish fescue and orchardgrass. They also started building a cow herd.

“It’s quite a contrast,” O.D. says of the transition. “If you don’t have pasture, you’re not going to have cattle. And the better your pasture is, the better the growth and gain of your cattle.”

“We’re constantly working to improve the quality of the land and the quality of our beef,” Glen says. “Ultimately, we want to provide more opportunities for our children and grandchildren, should they want to stay here on the farm.”

A focused formula for success

The Copes say maximizing forages while improving the land starts with grazing management, fertility and weed and brush control. Grasses thrive in the southwestern Missouri climate. So do undesirable weeds and brush.

They fertilize and apply DuraCor® herbicide in the late spring — usually during early May.

“That’s when the thistles start coming on,” Glen explains. “DuraCor allows us to control thistles that have bolted and started growing while providing the critical residual control to zap ragweed later in the summer. That’s big because ragweed canopies and chokes out grasses.”

Clean pastures means more forage. Proper management helps the Copes achieve their goals. While their rugged hills prevent intensive rotational grazing, cross-fenced larger pastures allow rest periods and prevent overgrazing.

“The cow has to provide enough milk for her calf,” Glen says. “It’s extremely important from the get-go there’s plenty of forage to eat.”

It’s important too there’s stockpiled grass to carry the primarily fall-calving herd into winter.

“We never take our cattle off grass, so we don’t overstock to ensure we have ample forage. Ideally, we don’t get a bale out of the haybarn until Jan. 1,” O.D. says. “That helps us reduce our feed costs.”

Reputation for quality

It pays off on the income side too. The Copes market most of their calf crop private treaty as heavier preconditioned animals — 900 to 925 pounds for steers, 800 to 850 for heifers — with a rigorous health protocol.

“Selling heavier calves has worked well for us,” Glen says. “Our buyers know they’re getting a good, healthy animal that will hit the ground running.”

Yet, for the Copes, there’s no contentment in the status quo. Their philosophy: If you’re not progressing, you’re going backward. And that’s important as they look to creating opportunities for future generations.

For example, the Copes rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to guide herbicide and fertilizer applications. They emphasize a preventive approach to brush control to catch emerging plants early to preserve their progress.

“If our kids want to come back to the farm, we want to ensure that opportunity,” Glen says. “That means we have to do more with less — make the most of what we already have. And grass is certainly going to be a part of that. The more grass we grow, the more cattle we can have.”

DuraCor® has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with DuraCor and to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. Consult the label for full details. DuraCor is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions.

 

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