Crisp fall leaves scatter across the wide open pastures in southern Oklahoma. The sun is just beginning to peek over the horizon and welcome a new day. Small pockets of steam rise up from huddled masses of calves waiting for the feed truck. This is my favorite view of Oswalt Road Ranch.
Morning Sunrise at Oswalt Road Ranch.
My name is Penny Sparks, and I am one of two research assistants at Oswalt Road Ranch, one of the Noble Research Institute's research and demonstration farms in Love County, Oklahoma. I came to the Noble Research Institute in 2014 to work in the Forage Improvement Division after graduating college with an agronomy degree. After a year and a half of forage research, I transferred to the Agricultural Division to work on the Oswalt Ranch.
Working in both divisions has given me a unique perspective on research at the Noble Research Institute and great appreciation for the work that all researchers do here. I hope to convey to you not only the exciting research advances but also shed light on the people who make it happen.
Oswalt Road Ranch is the Noble Research Institute's main cattle shipping and receiving hub. Using the chutes shown below, we handle both mature cows and bulls (yellow chute) as well as younger stock such as weaned calves (gray chute). We process thousands of stockers, cows and bulls each year, giving vaccinations, artificially inseminating, weighing, and sorting into groups for various research projects. Once a research project is complete, cattle are brought back to Oswalt and put on our feed ration to prepare for sale, breeding or additional research projects.
Oswalt Cattle Facility hydraulic cattle chutes. Each chute has a set of sorting pens directly in front of it.
From the chutes, cattle are placed into small holding corrals before being moved to their allotted pens. Each of our pens provides 6 acres for cattle to roam around in as well as a large concrete or metal feed bunk. There are also loafing sheds for shelter.
For larger groups of cattle, we have pastures set up at the end of one alleyway with feed bunks. Past the alleyways and pens, Oswalt has a substantial amount of rangeland that has been used for prescribed burning and grazing studies.
Each morning, we spend the bulk of our time feeding and checking cattle on research projects and in our holding traps. After morning chores are complete, we do ranch maintenance work, prepare for upcoming cattle working or tours, and address research projects.
Prescribed burn taking place during the Dormant Season Prescribed Burn Field Day on Jan. 19, 2017, at Coffey Ranch.
Coffey Ranch is roughly 2,600 acres, and the land is mainly used for range and wildlife research as well as prescribed burning and housing cattle. Pictured above is part of the area burned during the Noble Research Institute Prescribed Burn Workshop.
Red River Farm is an approximately 3,600-acre parcel of land situated next to the Red River. At the Red River Farm, there are several small plot (forage research) projects conducted under linear irrigation lines as well as a large pecan orchard. Many of the Noble Research Institute cows reside at Red River Farm and have their calves there in the spring.
The Red River runs on the southern side of the Red River Farm property.
Other Noble Research Institute research farms include Dupy Research Farm, Pasture Demonstration Farm (PDF), McMillan East Farm, Research Park, Foundation Headquarters (land directly beside office buildings), and the 3rd Street property. We call these farms the "North Farms." Many of the research projects discussed in the Ranching in the South blog (which focuses on the South Farms: Oswalt, Coffey and Red River) will have replications at various other research farms.
It's a joy and a privilege to share with you the current research conducted on Noble Research Institute farmland as well as to share with you the people who make it happen. All from a ranch hand's perspective.