My Noble Summer: Brought to You by the Letter F
As I sit down and think about my summer as a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, a lot of things instantly run through my head. The longer I think about it, the more I notice a similar trend: the letter F. So here is a synopsis of my summer, featuring the sixth letter of the alphabet:
My major project as a scholar was to compare feed efficiency of heifers, in the form of residual feed intake, to designations provided through genomic testing. I spent many of my Friday mornings at the Noble Research Institute's Oswalt Ranch with Charlotte Burns, a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science, weighing 14 heifers and collecting feed samples out of the GrowSafe feed bunks.
The sun rises over the Oswalt Ranch cattle working facilities early on a Friday morning. Photo by Charlotte Burns.
Being from Pennsylvania, the entire concept of prescribed burning was completely new to me. That being said, it did not take long for me to realize I LOVE fire. We conducted two prescribed burns, totaling about 300 acres, at a ranch in Texas with wildlife consultant Steven Smith. The feeling of extreme heat as you carry your drip torch along the fire break is an intense feeling, one of pure adrenaline. Being able to see the fruits of your work, scorched earth, knowing that soon it will be filled with nutritious new growth, is a different feeling: accomplishment.
Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture Natalie Graff and Brent Weiss during a summer burn in North Texas.
Similar to fire, being from the Northeast caused me to enter my summer with limited knowledge about wild pigs as they are not an issue in Pennsylvania. One day we got to do some feral hog removal from Oswalt Ranch after wildlife consultant Joshua Gaskamp caught the pigs the night before in a BoarBuster trap. Two of the pigs, one boar and one sow, were tranquilized, collared, measured and tagged so that their movement and activity could be tracked. I learned a lot about the damage that wild pigs cause, from crop and pasture damage to disease transmission.
Another cool aspect of the scholar experience is being able to go on farm visits with consultants. Basically a farm visit is meeting with a producer/landowner and helping them move toward their goals, whether it be for livestock, white-tailed deer management or a trophy bass fishery. Oftentimes consultants from multiple disciplines go on the same farm visit, allowing you to see how different minds look at different things but also how different personalities interact.
Smoke rises above an oil well during a summer burn farm visit.
During the beginning of my time at Noble I was able to attend Plant-Herbivore Interaction, a Natural Resources Conservation Service course taught by Fred Provenza, Ph.D. This week-long course provided a lot of information about how animals graze, why they eat what they eat, and many other aspects of grazing, and it opened my mind to look at things completely different than before. This course definitely will have a lasting impact on my agricultural career, and I thank Dr. Provenza for that.
Brent Weiss helps move heifers for a simulated mob grazing project. Photo by Kelly Kowis.
Finally, my summer as an ag scholar provided me a lot insight that will help me later on down the road. I found that I have a knack for applied nutrition, which may help me when thinking about what I will do after my senior year of college. I was also exposed to a lot of different things that changed the way I see the world, allowing me to look at things from a systems approach.
Brent Weiss is a 2018 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, where he assists with raising beef cattle, sheep and poultry, along with Hereford show cattle. He is a senior at Delaware Valley University majoring in livestock science and management with a minor in equine science.