Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Known as a leader in agriculture, Russell C. Hackley has not only integrated a profitable beef operation, but also highly enjoys his work and involvement in the industry. He recognizes the value of high quality forage and is willing to try new things to better utilize forage. He also has hosted many field days through the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service and has worked with University researchers in using his operation for many research trials, including novel endophyte tall fescue variety trials.
Russell, who considers himself a grass farmer before a cattle farmer, started rotational grazing in 1989. The Grayson County native grew up raising beef cattle and continues to farm in Grayson County to this day. Russell has been presented with numerous awards for his excellent management including the AFGC Distinguished Grasslander Award, Master Conservationist Award, Grassroots Award, Outstanding Grassland Farmer Award and more.
Over the years, Russell has made many modifications to his operation as he gained knowledge and experience. While he has always enjoyed producing high quality forages, he began to focus on controlled grazing and increased utilization of quality forages about 20 years ago. The increased gains that resulted aided in the decision to shift from a cow/calf operation to mainly a stocker operation which gave him the opportunity to market these gains.
Today, Russell focuses on his stocker operation with 300-350 head annually while he keeps a small cow/calf herd year round. Stocker calves, weighing between 400-450 pounds, are purchased in the spring and rotationally grazed on lush pastures throughout the summer. On average, the stockers gain 300 lbs before being sold in the fall to Laura’s Lean Beef. The small cow herd Russell maintains is the descendants of the herd his father owned. He not only keeps this herd because of the family history but because he and his family enjoy the husbandry.
Russell takes pride in producing high quality forages because it has a direct effect on cattle production. By adapting methods to better utilize his pastures, Russell manages cattle with a targeted average daily gain of 2 pounds /day with a stocking rate set to produce 400 to 500 pounds of gain per acre on average. Depending on the year, a pound of gain has ranged from $0.55 per pound to $1.26 per pound.
Russell’s carefully designed grazing system includes cost-effective watering systems and fencing made of both high tensile electric fence and polywire. Over the years he has managed to convert his farm from Kentucky 31 tall fescue to 100% novel endophyte tall fescue varieties. Russell also appreciates how soil fertility has increased through recycling nutrients by pasturing cattle, which also reduced commercial fertilizer costs.
On June 18, 2013, a field day was held at Russell’s farm where he was recognized for his grazing variety trials going back to 1972. Dr. Tim Phillips, University of Kentucky forage breeder, recognized Russell for 41 years of cooperation in tall fescue research. Russell has also conducted several field scale variety tests for commercial seed companies. Jack Ewing, Grayson County ANR Agent said, “Russell and I have had a very rewarding relationship since I've been here as county agent beginning in 1971. At the field day last month, I gave Russell the original complete file of the first grazing research as a memento of the beginning of a successful journey to solving and developing successful grazing.”