Field Day participants tour Gordon’s operation 11/5/2013

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Field Day participants tour Gordon’s operation

By John Howell Sr.

Gordon Farms on Curtis Road in Batesville has become a “must see” for cattle producers seeking to maximize land use.

Last week Durwood Gordon and his wife, Melinda, hosted the 2013 Northwest Mississippi Forage Field Day, sponsored by Mississippi State University and the MSU Extension Service. They were joined by cattle producers from Panola and surrounding counties and manufacturer’s representatives to hear MSU veterinarian Dr. Carla Huston, beef cattle specialist Dr. Brandi Karish and forage specialist Dr. Rocky Lemus.

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Gordon manages cattle on a 200-acre intensive grazing operation that is divided by an extensive network of electric fencing into five-acre paddocks. He grows native pasture grasses, rotates his cattle between paddocks to optimize grazing and growing. His watering system and management practices are often cited in trade publications.

The cattle farmer has continually refined his operation since he began moving away from continuously grazing his cattle throughout his entire pasture about 10 years ago.

Huston, spoke to the cattle producers about calving techniques and vaccinations, demonstrating with a cow’s pelvic skeletal structure what method creates the least stress on the birthing cow and newborn calf.

Karish reminded the men and women that they were not primarily cattle producers but growers of the grass. The availability of the right grass in the right season becomes the determinant of animals’ health and weight gain rates, she said.

She encourage cattle producers to test hay for nutrients, citing variations in protein requirements for cattle at various stages of their lives. Karish discussed methods of calculating amounts of hay needed for cattle.

Lemus, who has been a frequent visitor to Gordon Farms during the last decade, talked about winter pasture grasses included discussion about how clovers could help mitigate fescue toxicosis.

Gordon demonstrated moving his cows from one paddock to another, an operation made easier by strategic placement of gaps between paddocks. His sleek cattle cooperated, moving to the newer grass without excess protest. The system of easy handling fits into the overall plan of minimizing stress, a deterrent to the animals’ health and to weight gain, he said.

Key to Gordon’s subdivision of his farm into the smaller grazing areas is a network of electric fencing. Another field day speaker, Doug Gevedon of Stay-Tuff fencing discussed managing grazing with electric fences.