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Public-private partnerships— a winning combination

Two MDC programs offer landowners incentives while increasing public access, hunting opportunities and improving wildlife habitats

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has two programs that provide landowners, farmers and hunters with a win-win situation.
The first is the Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP) which is a voluntary program that compensates landowners for opening their private property to the public for outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. The second is the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) which is designed to assist Missouri landowners in reaching deer management goals for their properties.

MDC’s private land programs supervisor, Lisa Potter, serves as the MRAP manager. She explained that landowners can earn $15 to $25 per acre for each year of participation and that there are six different access options landowners can choose from when enrolling. The options are youth hunting and fishing; all access hunting and fishing; archery hunting; fishing; small game and turkey hunting; and wildlife viewing.

“This diverse list of access options allows landowners to enroll in an access type that best matches their comfort level and provides unique outdoor recreation opportunities to the public,” said Potter, adding that these private lands are open to public foot traffic only. “For example, if a landowner is interested in deer hunting but also wants to enroll their property into MRAP, the acreage can be enrolled into the small game and turkey access. The public can only pursue turkey and small game species, while the landowner can continue to hunt deer on their lands.”

With this program, the public now has additional lands for outdoor recreation, often closer to home. One of the objectives of MRAP is to afford more outdoor opportunities to youth under the age of 16.

“Currently, there are several youth-only properties enrolled that provide sites with high-quality habitat and less competition with other hunters and anglers,” Potter said. “MRAP properties can also increase economic development for nearby towns by bringing both Missouri and out-of-state outdoor recreationists into the area.”

Another benefit of MRAP is the incentive to maintain existing habitat and help create additional quality wildlife habitat.
“We provide up to 90% cost-share and annual payment incentives to MRAP landowners for voluntarily choosing to complete habitat work on their properties,” Potter explained. “For a property to be eligible for enrollment, at least 20% of the offered acres must be considered quality wildlife habitat. The average amount of quality wildlife habitat on MRAP properties is greater than 60% of the enrolled acres, far exceeding the minimum program requirements.”

MRAP was piloted in northeast Missouri by MDC in 2016 and was fully funded in 2018 through the USDA Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. Since its inception, the program has grown to more than 15,000 acres enrolled with properties distributed across the state.
MFA Natural Resources Conservation Specialist Emily Beck said she was surprised by the number of farms signed up near her farm in northern Missouri, adding that, “Having an increase in foot traffic can be worrisome so MDC covers that with liability protection with the Missouri Recreational Use Immunity Statutes. This is only offered if you do not have any outside hunting leases or charge extra fees to enter your land.”

The Deer Management Assistance Program was launched in seven Missouri counties in 2019 and now is available throughout the state.
“The program addresses a broad suite of deer management goals including reducing damage caused by deer to agriculture, forest or other plant communities; improving the health and quality of the deer herd by balancing deer numbers; plus creating a more balanced female-to-male ratio,” said Kevyn Wiskirchen, MDC’s private lands deer biologist and DMAP administrator.

Jim Starr, a Boone County timber, row-crop and cattle farmer, is participating in the DMAP program to help reduce deer pressure on his property in a sustainable way.

“My main business is a sawmill, and I harvest timber off our farm,” said Starr, who has approximately 400 acres of forest. “The deer can really harm oak and hickory tree regeneration by stripping leaves, shoots and bark of the trees. The damage to the trees was really affecting the growth.”

When his family first moved to the farm, Starr said he rarely saw a deer. “Now there are about 100-125 deer per square mile. It should be about 25-30. You know that the population is really out of hand when you see all the dead deer on the side of the road,” he said. “I was looking at getting a nuisance permit when Adam Doerhoff (Boone County MDC agent) told me about DMAP. With DMAP hunting permits, we can now harvest the deer meat and not have it go to waste.”

Deer damage authorizations allow landowners to remove deer during the summer when high temperatures make it more difficult to utilize the venison. However, DMAP permits are used to harvest deer during the regular hunting season, thus providing landowners with another tool to address deer damage while making it much easier to utilize the meat from the deer that are removed.

Starr gives the DMAP tags to a few hunters and family members who are able to use the meat. He has also donated deer harvested from his property to Missouri’s Share the Harvest program, which helps hunters provide surplus venison for the hunger-relief needs. Share the Harvest is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and MDC.

With DMAP hunting permits, farmers are able to keep the deer population lower on their lands, which benefits the landowners and their crops as well as the deer.

“In the first year, we harvested about 25 deer. I think 22 were mature females,” Starr said. “That’s really what you want.” He plans to continue enrolling in DMAP each year to help address his concerns with deer pressure.

Just down the road from Starr’s farm is the Missouri Soybean Association’s Bay Farm Research Facility. Brady Lichenberg, conservation programs manager for the association, said that the research facility enrolled in DMAP this year.

“We were interested in participating because of the extensive deer damage we have observed,” Lichenberg said. “Having the opportunity for increased available antlerless firearms deer permits will be key to reducing deer pressure on our soybean research plots.”

He added that the enrollment process was very simple. “I contacted our local conservation agent and gave him some basic information. All I had to do was submit some maps of the farms that we were enrolling and some information on the hunters who will have tags allocated to them. The process was very straightforward, and thus far it has been headache-free.”

Landowners with large acreage or those with above-average deer densities on their property may need additional harvest opportunities to effectively manage the local deer population, Wiskirchen said.

“There are other options that can help landowners reduce deer damage, such as being authorized by an MDC conservation agent to remove deer during the growing season,” Wiskirchen said. “However, DMAP offers the advantage of allowing landowners to remove deer during the hunting season when the weather is cooler and when it is generally easier to enlist the help of other hunters to help them meet their goal.”

For more information on DMAP, visit

To view an interactive map and description of MRAP properties go to:
Interested landowners can find the MRAP application form at

Enrollment opportunities are offered on a continuous basis.

CLICK HERE to read more from this November Today's Farmer Magazine.

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New era in service

Automation, speed and precision bring unmatched efficiencies to MFA’s Four Rivers Agronomy Center

The recently constructed Four Rivers Agronomy Center in Ravenwood, Mo., is bringing a new era in service to farmers in MFA’s northwest trade territory.

Located about 10 miles east of Maryville, the complex consists of a high-speed 6,500-ton fertilizer plant, crop protection warehouse, centralized seed treatment system and office building. The center is the service hub for MFA customers in a 30-mile radius and beyond, consolidating smaller fertilizer and chemical facilities into the larger, more modern operation.

“We’re covering pretty much all of Nodaway and Worth counties and the northwest corner of Gentry in Missouri and Ringgold and Taylor counties in Iowa,” General Manager Craig Wilmes said. “This was a big overlap territory among MFA’s Conception Junction, Maryville, Sheridan and Guilford locations, and we’re seeing huge improvements in efficiencies.”

The fertilizer plant, which began operating this past spring, is a high-volume throughput system with a modular declining-weight blender. Operations Manager Justin Seipel said its six bins will typically accommodate three phosphates, ammonium sulfate, potash and SuperU nitrogen plus two micronutrient bins. The building features three bays that can hold 1,000 tons of dry product, three that hold 500 tons and two with a 200-ton capacity.

“In and out, we can load a 24-ton tender in about 8 minutes. Before, it would take at least 45 minutes, and that’s if you had somebody else to help with mixing,” he said. “The difference is unbelievable.”

Similar efficiencies are realized at Ravenwood’s crop protection warehouse, which became fully operational in July. With a dozen 6,100-gallon bulk tanks and a racking system for another 16 intermediate bulk containers, known more commonly as “totes,” the facility can accommodate 28 different chemicals and adjuvants. It also has the capability to repack the portable bulk containers with chemicals for customers and other MFA locations.

The automated precision system quickly and safely mixes and loads products for MFA custom applicators as well as growers. A semi-tanker can be loaded in less than 30 minutes—without anyone having to handle the chemicals—whereas it would have taken 45 minutes to an hour under the old system.
Even with an abbreviated spraying season, the efficiencies allowed the Four Rivers network to reduce their sprayer fleet from six machines to four this summer, Wilmes said. The convenience, speed and safety also benefit farmers such as Larry Roberts of Hopkins, Mo., who spray their own fields.

“We used to buy the chemicals from MFA and mix them ourselves, which meant we had to haul them around with the water tanks and everything,” said Roberts, who raises soybeans and corn. “When they built this, we bought a tanker, so we just pull in here, they load it and we go. Saves a lot of time and confusion. We started doing that this summer, and it worked slick.”

Whether delivering crop protection or fertilizer services, all of the equipment is monitored under the AgSync precision logistics program, which helps ensure efficient flow of trucks and sprayers to and from customers’ fields.

“We’re not necessarily getting more acres done through the machines, but we’re getting more acres done in the day because they’re not sitting and waiting,” Seipel said. “It all comes down to logistics.”

The facility’s state-of-the-art, automated seed-treating system for soybeans is also speeding up operations, Wilmes said.
“It’s definitely an improvement,” he said. “It only takes about a quarter of the time to treat seed than it did before. We have four tanks here to house bulk seed, which eliminates the need to take up a lot of warehouse space.”

Admittedly, Wilmes said, centralizing operations in a new way of doing business has meant change for employees and customers, but he’s optimistic about the progress so far and where it’s headed in the future.

“MFA has never done anything like this, but I don’t think it could have gone any better than what it did,” Wilmes said. “We’ve become a lot more efficient in a very short amount of time, and I think it will only get better as we go along. We’re going to figure out that there’s many more things that we can do to make it even more effective.”

CLICK HERE to read more from this November Today's Farmer Magazine.

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No way a boring day

Raising meat goats brings both challenges and rewards

Ask goat farmers about their day, and they’ll tell you there is never a dull moment. Goats are full of curiosity and personality. Fences are just a nuisance for some. And their reproduction cycle seems to be nonstop.

LeeAnn Martin, who raises Boer goats on her Red Head Acres farm near Rocheport, Mo., says that goats are one of the hardest animals she has raised, yet also one of the most rewarding.

“I really like the babies,” she said. “Watching them run around is pure joy.”
LeeAnn’s journey in goat farming is unusual. When she and her husband, Tony, MFA’s animal health manager and staff veterinarian, bought their 44-acre farm in the 1990s, LeeAnn loved the old horse barn on the property and wanted to restore it. Built with “good bones,” the barn still had most of its original beams. It would quickly become a haven for a new guest.

“Soon after we bought this place, a friend who volunteered at the Humane Society called and said, ‘Hey, you have that old barn now. Believe it or not, Animal Control caught a loose goat in Columbia. Would you consider adopting it?’” LeeAnn recalled. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve never raised goats, but I have raised most everything else. So why not? It will give our four children some farm chores.’”

Little did she know that her newly adopted, single goat would be adding much more to the Martin farm.

“A goat’s gestational period is 150 days and, of course, 150 days after we adopted her, she had twin does,” LeeAnn said. “That’s how we got started. A loose goat in Columbia!”
The Martins’ son, Cooper, wanted to show the goat at the Boone County Fair.

“At that point in time, you could show a doe in the market class. We didn’t want to sell her, so I agreed,” LeeAnn said. “And don’t you know, he won grand champion with her.”
Their farm is now home to a herd of around 100 goats, which are ideal grazing companions to cattle. The goats assist in pasture management with their ability to graze broadleaf plants that other livestock leave behind. Goat manure is also a great organic fertilizer, which can be beneficial to next season’s crops or pastures.

Though they obviously didn’t know her history, the Martins’ first goat exhibited characteristics of Boer bloodlines. Purebred Boers are a handsome, almost mythical lot, with slightly curled horns and a regal, Roman-like nose. Their large, dangling ears can look like wings when the kids are hopping through the air.

The first full-blood Boer goats were imported to the United States in the early 1990s from Australia and New Zealand. Today, Missouri is ranked fifth in the nation for raising goats, with 76,000 meat goats and 11,200 milk goats.

The Boer is usually white-bodied with red head and neck, yet the American Boer Goat Association (ABGB) states that “no preference is given to any hair color.” There are many different color combinations—some are solid, some are marked with moon spots, while others are painted with black, brown, cream, tan or red.

Though large-framed and heavily muscled, Boers are docile and quite charming. Strutting around the show ring or paddock, a full-blooded Boer buck has a red, manly beard, showing off his muscular physique like a bodybuilder. Does are known to be excellent mothers, necessary skills because their fertility rate is high. They typically produce twins and even triplets.

Popular for meat production, the Boer has a rapid growth rate, produces excellent carcass qualities and can thrive in different environments. Mature does can weigh between 190-230 pounds and a mature buck between 200-340 pounds.

LeeAnn said that goat meat can be used as you would use pork or beef. “It’s best if you cook it low and slow and keep it moist because there is so little fat. I make goat burgers and add some ground pork to the patties. I use goat meat in stews and chili, on pizzas and I make pulled goat just like pulled pork. To me, it tastes a lot like beef.”

The breed was developed by Dutch farmers in South Africa in the early 1900s for meat that was low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Some 70% of the world’s population consumes goat meat, and the Boer is now regarded as the premier choice.

The marketing opportunity for goat meat appealed to Marjeanna and Mike Smith when they began a Boer business 10 years ago on their farm in Milo, Mo. Originally thinking she wanted dairy goats, Marjeanna quickly realized milking would be too demanding, so they decided on meat goats instead.

“Goat meat produced in Missouri many times is shipped to the East Coast and cities like Chicago, where there are ethnic populations who have always cooked with goat,” Marjeanna said. “I cannot eat what we have raised; I’m just too close to these animals. But it is a very healthy red meat. It is a great source of protein that is low in fat, cholesterol and calories.”

The Smiths have about 40 head in their 2MS Boer Goats herd and are diligent when it comes to record-keeping, which is important for producers like them who are raising the animals for their genetics as well as their meat.

“It’s very unusual in this industry for anybody to keep the records we do,” explained Mike, who serves as MFA Incorporated’s crop insurance principal agent. “We record each birth weight and track the kid’s weight each week for the first four weeks.”

After that, the Smiths record the weight every two weeks until the kids are weaned. From that information, they can track the genetic characteristics to see which traits they are receiving from different buck and doe combinations.

“We not only look at the birth rates and rate of development, we also analyze if the buck is throwing too large a kid or too small a kid,” Mike said. “We see if the doe is milking well or not. We look back to the previous generation as well.”

The Smiths research genetics and buy goat semen from other parts of the country to obtain the characteristics they are trying to achieve. “One of the reasons we keep such detailed records is for our own herd genetics,” said Marjeanna, who is responsible for all the record-keeping.

“It’s also nice for our customers to know what type of goat they are purchasing,” Mike added. “We’re trying to encourage others in the industry to do the same so we can have verifiable information for all of our buyers.”

Like the Smiths, LeeAnn Martin keeps meticulous records, including birth and weaning weights, birthing details, color pattern, newborn and mothering characteristics, parasite resistance, breeding patterns and overall health. She is also known for raising quality, registered full-blood Boers.

“I try to market my goats to people who want to show registered breeding stock,” she said. “The full-blood Boer goats seem to draw the highest market value. You have to get a premium, or you just cannot pay the expenses.”

The Martins and the Smiths take pride in how they raise their Boer goats and what type of animal results from their efforts. They say having a knowledgeable mentor is also very important.

“We have made some mistakes along the way, but we have a few great people who have helped us,” Marjeanna said. “With our first set of goats, we had a man who’d been in the business for a while come out to look at our herd. He told us to sell them all, that we had nothing worth keeping. He told us how to make better choices with our selections.”

However, Marjeanna continued, “He told us that we were super good about seeing movement, and that’s something most people never see.” She credits growing up in the horse industry for helping her develop that skill.

The Smiths share some of what they’ve learned through their Facebook page, 2MS Boer Goats, where they post tips about raising goats and use it as a platform to educate others. When it comes to nutrition for their goats, the Smiths work with Greg Davis, MFA livestock specialist, to put together the right combination of feed and supplements.

“We use a number of different MFA products, including Full Throttle with Shield, MFA Dairy Goat and Liquid Shield for the baby goats,” Mike said. “I just put a little bit on my finger then place it on their tongue. It’s been great for those babies who are a little slow to come around.”

LeeAnn said she also makes it her mission to help others who are interested in buying or raising Boer goats. She uses her personal Facebook page as a platform for education and information on goat production.

“Farming is hard. It’s really, really hard some days, but I take pride in raising quality animals. I’m not into cutting corners,” she said. “There’s a lot you can teach your kids by being in last place. And then after a few years, you’re in the middle.

And then after another few years, you’re at the front. I want them to work their way into winning. I enjoy teaching and helping others and cheering them on through their journey.”

For more information on MFA’s complete line of goat feeds and other supplies, visit with the livestock experts at your local MFA Agri Services, AGChoice or MFA affiliate facility.

CLICK TO view this story as it was printed in the November magazine.

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