MISSISSIPPI STATE – When producer and consultant Dr. Gordon Hazard answers his phone, it is often in the middle of a pasture.
Hazard has been raising cattle for more than 75 years, and his boots-to-the-ground approach is what helps him make a profit each and every year. He knows what Mississippi cattle producers are up against.
“The cattle business, particularly the grazing business, is one of the biggest industries in the state, and veterinarians focused on this practice are, frankly, short in the state,” said Hazard, also known as the “Grass Guru.”
That is where Dr. David Smith comes in. He is the first Mikell and Mary Cheek Hall Davis Endowed Professor of Beef Cattle Health and Reproduction at Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Smith, a board-certified veterinary epidemiologist, came to MSU from the University of Nebraska. His 30 years of experience in cattle production systems and disease control has prepared him to assist the owners of the 17,000 beef cattle farms in Mississippi.
“Dr. Smith comes from an area where there is a lot of emphasis put on the cow-calf portion of the industry, and we need people who understand the business and the importance of raising calves,” Hazard said. “He has the expertise to help us in that area and also in the research arena.”
Smith was attracted to the position at MSU’s veterinary college because of the number of faculty interested in preventing animal diseases.
“There are talented people here who are interested in livestock health, preventive medicine, and also outreach and education,” Smith said. “Together, we can enhance the information given to cattle producers.”
Smith, who studies calf health and food safety, said part of his focus will be on the stocker cattle sector. His aim is to help producers improve their cattle’s marketability as they move them into feedlots.
“There’s a great niche for stocker cattle in Mississippi, and we need to provide evidence-based information on how to care for those cattle to increase their health, well-being, performance and, ultimately, value,” Smith said.
In addition to finding ways to add value to stocker cattle, Smith wants to identify more efficient ways to capture important information on the state’s cow-calf and stocker cattle operations.
“We want to use health and performance records to make good management decisions,” he said. “But, there is also information that can move with the animals to add value. We need to learn what data are most worthwhile and then record them in a system that is easy to use.”