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A Diverse Summer: From Burning Pastures to Tagging Feral Hogs

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Through my lifetime of experiences with producers and those engaged in the agriculture industry, I never fail to be amazed by the technology and practices, but most importantly the people. I grew up surrounded by farmers and ranchers who raised mostly beef cattle and crops  such as corn, wheat and soybeans. These experiences led me to believe production agriculture consisted of cows and rows crops, as those were the main commodities I was exposed to in central Missouri.

However, the further I dive into my education, I am realizing time and time again the picture I have in my mind of the industry is quite narrow in the grand scheme of things. It seems each day I am presented with something that widens my view on this great industry. I remember my freshman year of college when touring a pecan farm and processing operation first showed me that production agriculture consists of much more than I had previously thought. Once again, the opportunity to be a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture has broadened my view of the industry as I have been surrounded by consultants, researchers and producers who believe in the betterment and advancement of the industry for the good of those who rely on it. As I continue to learn about the vast diversity of production agriculture, I continue to be amazed by the many modern technologies and practices in the industry.

Prescribed Burns Benefit Pastures

Something I knew little about before coming to Noble was the practice of prescribed burns and their effects on grazing forage quantity and quality. Earlier this summer I assisted Steven Smith, Noble wildlife and fisheries consultant, with a summer burn at a producer’s ranch. Throughout the day, I listened to Steven and those helping with the burn discuss the benefits they have seen from the previous burns they had done on the land. I also learned about the planning that happens before the burn, such as making the burn plan, to ensure it is handled properly and everyone is on the same page on burn day. Although it was a hot June day and a slow start with the burn, I enjoyed helping and watching the pasture gradually burn, knowing the producer would start to see benefits in the next few days.

exampleLloyd Scholar Amber Oerly, uses a drip torch during a prescribed summer burn.

Chasing Hens and Picking Berries

Specialty crop production and agritourism have always been interesting segments of production agriculture to me. I find it fascinating how people who produce specialty crops on smaller pieces of land can make comparable profits to producers who grow the more common crops on larger acreage. This summer, Noble has been working with the Ardmore HFV Wilson Community Center to help expose some of their youth to Oklahoma agriculture. I attended one of the center’s tours to The Farm on Fishmarket, near Wanette, Oklahoma, where the farm’s owner and Steve Upson, Noble horticulture consultant, taught the youth about producing small fruits and eggs. As an agritourism destination, this farm also allows the public to come out and pick berries. With many consumers desiring a safe and locally grown food source, these producers have been able to prosper in this niche market.

Perhaps my favorite part of this visit was watching the youth interact on the farm, especially with the laying hens, as they chased around the yard trying to catch one. Many of the young people on the trip never had been introduced to fruit or egg production, so this tour allowed them to see a small part of the industry.

exampleSteve Upson, Noble Research Institute soils and crops consultant, walks in the strawberry patch at The Farm on Fishmarket.

Trapping and Tagging Feral Hogs

As an agricultural economics major, the destructive effects feral hogs have on the financial health of operations is an area of concern for me. These hogs are extremely prolific and carry diseases, but they also cause property damage as they root in pastures and crop fields. Noble has been tracking the movements of feral hogs through GPS collars in an effort to learn about their traveling and burrowing habits. One morning I was able to assist some Noble employees as they trapped and put GPS collars on some feral hogs caught on the Institute’s Oswalt Ranch using the BoarBuster™ hog trap. These technologies help researchers continue to develop the best ways to eradicate the feral hog population in the United States.

exampleAmber Oerly assists Noble staff scientist Stephen Webb, Ph.D., in placing a GPS collar on a feral hog trapped on the Institute’s Oswalt Ranch in Love County.

As my summer continues here at Noble, I look forward to continuing to learn about and experience new technologies and practices in the industry. I am thankful for the experiences I have had so far this summer, as they have, once again, proved to me that the agriculture is a varied, ever-changing industry at the forefront of new technologies and practices.

Amber Oerly is a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Boonville, Missouri, where she was raised on her small family cattle and row crop farming operation. Oerly graduated from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College with her associate’s degree.