Farm and Forest
Hay and Forage Crops
Ozark County's Agriculture: Change, and Growth
by Vance Hambleton, Ozark County Extension Agent
crops commonly grown in Missouri are low-yielding in Ozark County's
droughty, rocky soils. These crops have been replaced by forages
which are productive and take advantage of Ozark County's terrain.
Until fescue was introduced as a productive perennial
forage, livestock numbers didn't make great headway. Between 1960
and 1975 all cattle numbers increased at the highest rate since
1850. These, as well as the yields per acre in hay production, indicate
that significant changes had occurred in forage production. Those
major changes were the use of perennial forages such as fescue,
orchardgrass, red clover, alfalfa, and ladino clover and increased
use of commercial fertilizer on more total acres. Fescue became
the mainstay of Ozark County agriculture.
During the late 1970s and 1980s fescue seed harvest
became another important part of fescue production, although livestock
production still represented over ninety-five percent of fescue's
economic returns. Large round bales have been introduced into today's
hay system. During the 1980s problems associated with livestock
feeding on fescue were identified by university researchers as being
caused by a fungus inside the fescue plant. University of Missouri
extension agents are trying to help producers contend with the fescue
Agricultural production practices, methods, and products
have changed dramatically [over time]. Early production was for
family food. Labor was intensive and tools were simple. By the 1990s
production per farmer was much greater with less manual labor. Equipment
was much more elaborate. As an example, a farmer could pull into
a 20-acre hayfield on his air-conditioned tractor with his disc
bine and have the hay mowed and curing within four to five hours.
The next day a double-side delivery rake could have the hay raked
in windrows for baling in four hours with baling completed in four
to six hours using a 1,000-2,000 round bale baler. This thirty to
forty tons of hay would have taken days or weeks for a large family
to harvest in the mid-1800s on two times the land.
Source: A History of Ozark County, 1841-1991.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, the Ozark County Genealogical
and Historical Society. Photo by Peter Callaway.