NDSU Extension helps strengthen state’s livestock industry
Extension provides information on reproduction, nutrition, animal care and health, range management, resource stewardship and economics.
Like most cattle producers, Darwin Chesrown of Turtle Lake wants to improve his operation, but he’s reluctant to commit the entire herd to trying something different.
So when the North Dakota State University Extension Service developed an annual feedout project in conjunction with the Dakota Feeder Calf Show, he took advantage of it.
The project allows producers to see what can happen if they keep and feed calves after weaning instead of selling them. Each producer may consign two or three calves to the project. Those calves are fed to market weight at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center (CREC) feedlot, then harvested. Consigners receive data on the calves’ performance and carcass quality.
“Feeding calves to finish has changed our breeding program,” says Chesrown, who has consigned calves to the feedout project since it started 18 years ago.
“While controlling prices is difficult, we can control the type of cattle we raise,” says Karl Hoppe, area Extension livestock specialist at the CREC and feedout project organizer. “That’s why knowing how well cattle grow and what type of carcass they produce is important.”
The feedout project is one of many ways NDSU Extension agents and specialists provide the state’s beef industry with research-based information on genetics and reproduction, nutrition, animal care and health, range management, resource stewardship and market economics.
In many cases, agents and specialists are involved in the research, too.
For example, producers commonly harvest hay in roadside ditches and feed it to cattle and other livestock, but little has been known about the hay’s quality. So in 2015, Extension agents from 29 counties teamed up with Extension livestock specialists to provide some answers. The agents worked with producers in 36 counties to collect 182 samples of hay harvested from roadside ditches, and the specialists analyzed the samples.
“The ditch hay project results provided some valuable data, which we were able to share with our producers,” says Rick Schmidt, agriculture and natural resources agent for Oliver County. “Some of the interesting information gathered was the amount of ash (dust, dirt, garbage) that is in ditch hay, compared with adjacent hay fields.”
The study also found that the hay’s quality varies greatly, which, agents say, emphasizes the importance of getting the hay’s nutrient content tested before feeding it to livestock.
“Knowing the nutritional content of the feed livestock are consuming will help producers build a ration that meets their animals’ requirements and can also save them money on feed costs,” says Paige Brummund, agriculture and natural resources agent for Ward County.
Here are other examples of how Extension is providing support to the state’s livestock industry.
Specialists and agents continually work with cattle producers to increase the efficiency and genetics of their herds by using innovative methods such as artificial insemination (AI).
“Artificial insemination offers cattle producers the opportunity to use semen from high-accuracy, genetically superior sires at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a herd bull with similar genetics,” beef specialist Carl Dahlen says. “In addition, using estrus synchronization and AI can increase the number of calves born earlier in the calving season and increase weaning weights of calves.”
To demonstrate AI’s effectiveness, Dahlen collaborated with researchers from NDSU’s Animal Sciences Department to compare pregnancy rates, calving dates and calf weaning weights in commercial beef cows bred by AI or bulls on cattle operations in the state. Agents recruited producers who never had used AI to take part in the study.
Protecting North Dakota’s air and water are a priority. Mary Berg, area Extension livestock environmental management specialist, and Paulo Flores, nutrient management specialist, both at the CREC, work with Shafiqur Rahman, an associate professor in NDSU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, to develop resources to inform producers about the impacts of livestock facilities on water and air quality.
The team also helps producers understand animal feeding rules and regulations, manure’s value as a fertilizer and how manure spreader calibration can save the environment. Agents have worked with Berg to develop some of the resources, such as a poster and video on composting dead livestock, and the agents have shared that information with the producers in their counties.
As a result, Pembina County producer Russell Edgar tried composting in the winter, when he knew burial, his usual disposal method for dead cattle, wouldn’t work because of frozen ground.
“I’d recommend the practice,” Edgar says. “We use ingredients already in the feedlot like straw and waste feed, so it is easy to do. There’s no odor, no dead animals for anyone to see. It keeps things clean and the carcasses away from animals like coyotes.”
Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist Gerald Stokka, other livestock specialists and agents are educating producers about a new directive regulating certain medications added to livestock feed. Producers will need a veterinary feed directive order from a veterinarian to buy and use any livestock feed additive containing an antibiotic that’s considered medically important, such as injectable antibiotics.
This goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017, so Stokka and the others are urging producers to develop a working relationship with a veterinarian, if they don’t already have one, and seek the veterinarian’s advice about herd health management as soon as possible.
Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndsuag/livestock for more information about NDSU Extension’s livestock work.