Queen of the Kingdom of Callaway
and fertilizer. What do you do when you discover the main tools you use to make a living threaten your beloved’s health?
“We decided to put the fields near the house in native warm-season grass,” Clifford said.
Mary Ann herself came up with this solution one bright fall day when she and Clifford had driven south of Kingdom City to visit her cousins, Larry and Garry Houf.
At the time, Larry was the Department of Conservation’s district wildlife supervisor for the Ozark region. He and Garry, a forest biologist with the Mark Twain National Forest, had planted their family farm in native warm-season grasses, which turn rich, warm shades of gold, orange, red and purple in the fall.
“Mary Ann really liked those colors,” Clifford said, “she asked why we couldn’t plant those grasses on our place.”
At the time, Clifford didn’t know much about planting prairie grasses or designing management-intensive grazing forage systems, but he soon found out.
Clifford first met Missouri Department of Conservation grassland biologist Steve Clubine in 1991 at a Missouri Prairie Foundation meeting. They talked about adding native warm-season grasses to Clifford’s operation.
Steve visited Clifford’s farm and suggested a planting mixture of big bluestem, Indiangrass, little bluestem, sideoats grama, Eastern gamagrass and Illinois bundle-flower on 87 acres of his 575-acre operation. The Borgelts also planted a 5-acre buffer next to the house to protect Mary Ann from corn herbicides.
In 1994, Steve scheduled a drill and operator to plant Clifford’s 92 acres. 1994 wasn’t as wet as 1993, the year of the Great Flood, but it still rained a lot and weeds were heavy. In spite of this, Clifford kept his paddocks clipped, which gave the grasses a chance to establish. Steve inspected the planting a couple of times the first and second summer, and Clifford began grazing it in 1997.
In the meantime, Clifford also attended a management-intensive grazing school presented by the Audrain County Extension and local United States Department of Agriculture service center staff. There he learned the basics of rotating tight groups of cattle quickly through small paddocks of mixed grasses and legumes.
He also sought help from his USDA service center in Fulton. Resource conservationist Cheryl Livengood helped Clifford complete his grazing system with costshare programs for water lines and tanks. She also wrote his burn plans. Like all native prairie grasses, Eastern gama benefits from periodic burning, so he added prescribed fire to his forage system management