Starting Livestock Symposium took farmers’ ideas, hard work

Duane Dailey

Sometimes I’m asked, “How do you come up with a column every week?” I never know my idea until I put my butt in a chair in front of a keyboard and start wiggling my fingers.

Story tellers have stories to tell. It’s a matter of picking one to start. When I began writing columns decades ago I told that I would tell what I learned this week.

I’ve remained a life-long learner. I need a fresh idea at the end of each week.

This week, I knew early the topic: Livestock Symposium, Kirksville. But that’s so overwhelming, I knew not where to start.

The Symposium grew out of area farmers wanting to know more about many topics. They didn’t wait for MU Extension to bring classes. They picked what they wanted to hear and who could bring fresh ideas. That plan keeps growing.

As a working journalist, I hate this multi-track meeting. When I’m in a session on winter feeding of cows, I need to be down the hall learning estate planning. Or, food safety. Or, go on and on. Lots to learn here.

And, they feed well. An amazing beef dinner is served to the throng. I marvel at the meal planners. There is no advanced registration and no entry fee. The group works magic every year. I don’t think anyone ever goes away hungry for food or ideas.

A while back, Gary Mathes, chair, called me. I thought he was working up to ask for more advance stories. He pulled a fast one. The group voted me to receive one of their two awards. I won the “Agriculture Educator Lifetime Achievement Award.” Whoa.

I fretted a lot about that. Some amazing people have been named that. Astounding people I admire are awardees.

Later I learned the group is very wise. The 2018 “Livestock Person of the Year” is Oscar Mensa, beef farmer from Sullivan County. I wrote a story about this amazing man years ago. This weekend, we figured that was three decades ago. Both of us were still getting into our prime, I think.

The good thing is that Oscar remains my reader ever since. Not all journalists who write farm stories stay friends with subjects. I learned from him. He says he learns from me.

Oscar has a real story. He came from Argentina to the Green Hills of Missouri to raise cattle. He’d looked the world over to find the best grass. And did he ever raise cattle! Up to 1,250 cows.

In some places that are called cattle country, it takes a section of land to keep a cow. Oscar could stock nearly 200 cow-calf pairs on a section of Green Hills land. Grassy hills should be used for cows, he says.

There was some last-minute confusion, getting me to the Symposium this year. Eric Bailey, MU Extension beef nutritionist, was called upon to introduce me. He ad-libbed that I inspired young faculty like him. I help tell their stories. Eric said they learn most by watching my early-to-late work. He thought that’s good for a retiree.

The trade show at the symposium ranks special. I check in with Ken Keesaman, Red Angus breeder at Osborn. I’d written an MU Extension story about him, decades ago. His sons, now part of the operation, were in high chairs at that time. We have photos to prove it.

My advice to the audience: The secret to lifetime achievement is live long and never quit work.

I would add that Mother Nature assures that you won’t overwork. Knowing there are new things to learn, keeps me going.

Way late in life I learned that prolonging life takes work. A good exercise is learning to put down the fork, early. The other is to walk a brisk mile. My cardio adviser says walk every day. I’ve fallen behind this week while soaking up praise.

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