Did you know that ticks are best removed with a credit card? That you can get rabies from a dog without being bitten? That mountain lions are wimps, feral swine are spreading, or that a starling flock can consist of 12,000 birds? On Friday morning, a tractor-bucket load of information was imparted to guests of Field Day at Wurdack Farm near Cook Station.
Did you know that ticks are best removed with a credit card? That you can get rabies from a dog without being bitten? That mountain lions are wimps, feral swine are spreading, or that a starling flock can consist of 12,000 birds? On Friday morning, a tractor-bucket load of information was imparted to guests of Field Day at Wurdack Farm near Cook Station. Held once a year, Field Day at Wurdack is free and open to the public. Wurdack is one of fourteen research centers across Missouri, run by the University of Missouri, College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (CAFNR).
“The focus of these centers is to help producers,” said Logan Jackson of CAFNR, “and each center is unique to the agricultural community it is located in.” Wurdack Farm, along with a trust to maintain it, was a gift to the University of Missouri by Otto Wurdack of St. Louis, who made his fortune in the street light business. Of Wurdack’s 1,200 acres, 260 acres are in grazeable pasture while the remaining acreage consists of upland timber. The University pays for the farm manager’s salary, but the farm is self-sufficient for operations.
Gathering at the farm’s picnic shelter next to the spring, half of the 65 attendees stayed for presentations, while the other half climbed aboard a flatbed trailer for a truck-drawn tour of the farm led by Superintendent Dusty Walter. Rumbling across manicured pastures separated by single strand electric fence, the tour viewed a fescue restoration pasture that had been no-till seeded with cover crops, described by Bruce Burdick. “When you plant something, you give it a year to grow,” added farm manager, Brent Booker. With apologies to Shakespeare, ‘To crimp, cut, Chaparral, or ‘control’? That is the question’ of the next pasture visit, where Rusty Lee described a plot that had been roller/crimped as a method to discourage expression of seedheads; he concluded “after we get the lab results back this winter, we’ll know more” about which method of management best improves forage quality.
Next stop on the tour was a shortleaf pine stand, where the group viewed trees planted seven years ago, now fourteen feet tall. “89% of the 3,000 shortleaf pines that were planted here at Wurdack have survived,” said grad student Stephen Lyczak, who has been conducting a survey of the stand. Lyczak explained, “In the 1890’s, shortleaf were Missouri’s only native pine, but they were cut down due to the need for timber at that time.” CAFNR and the state nursery near Licking are trying to bring them back.
Health and safety was the next topic, and tick-borne diseases were first on the list. Crawford County Public Health Nurse Kim Smith taught how to make a homemade tick remover: simply cut slits of various sizes into an old credit card; then slide the appropriate size slot of the credit card between the tick and skin, then scrape. She discouraged the practice of pulling them off with fingers or tweezers, which may “squirt some of the infection from the tick into the bloodstream.”
She said the saliva of a dog can spread rabies; “if you have a cut on your skin, and an infected dog licks you, you can get rabies,” Kim shared. “If it isn’t yours, don’t touch it!” she emphasized. “Use a DEET product” (if you’re where ticks are), Kim said, “and be sure to check yourself for ticks” each day after being outside. “if you’ve had a bite, then develop flu-like symptoms a few days later, see your doctor for a blood test,” she stated.
Back at the spring, the groups traded places; the second farm tour began, while the first tour was given an in-service on wildlife management by USDA’s David Calandro. Armadillos are not native to Missouri, Calandro states, but “they’ve moved north as environmental conditions have changed.” Armadillos dig holes hazardous to tractors, and can spread diseases such as leprosy. Feral swine pose a major hazard to agriculture and health, causing an estimated $800 million/year damage to agriculture. Also discussed were starlings, vultures, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, geese and deer and the impact of each on agriculture and public health and safety.
Next, the group was given a demonstration on specialty log cutting by Roger Branson and Thomas Johnston, using a portable Wood Mizer sawmill. “If you have a tree that has meaning to you, and need to have it cut, Roger stated, “most loggers aren’t interested in coming in with all their equipment for one or two trees.” That is where Roger or Tom come in; “or you could bring to log to us,” said Roger, owner of Red Rooster Sawmill. The duo proceeded to saw a large red oak log into planks and displayed samples of beautifully grained custom saw work. The presentations concluded with Kelly Smith from the Missouri Farm Bureau, who encouraged the audience to advocate for the Secure Rural Schools reauthorization, affordable broadband coverage for rural areas, more funding for MoDOT, and against allowing eminent domain to a for-profit company planning to run a ‘green power’ line across Missouri.
James and Dorothy Koepke have had a cattle operation near Owensville for 50 years; both have served on the Wurdack farm advisory board; Jim as past chairman, while Dorothy continues as secretary. ”We enjoy coming to Field Days,” Dorothy stated, “As producers, we benefit from the research done here.” She continued, “the University of Missouri is number one in the world for cattle reproductive physiology,” and “the Show Me Select program works to improve genetics” which aids producers. For example, better genetics means better cattle, less prone to stillborn calves.
There’s nothing like a day spent outdoors to work up an appetite, and First Community National Bank of Steelville provided lunch for guests, as well as donating the gift basket won by producer Dan Halinar of Salem, presented by Nate Booker of the bank and his sidekick, son Trevor.
New Dean/Vice Chancellor of CAFNR, Dr. Chris Daubert, closed Field Day with parting thoughts. “We now speak of the University of Missouri as the University for Missouri,” he said. “Together we can provide even greater programs and go from being a good college, to a distinct college.”