From Buies Creek, North Carolina, to Stillwater, Oklahoma, my interests have always revolved around cattle and forages. I grew up following great mentors who helped to develop my passion for going to grazing workshops and cattle shows all over the country. Now, as a soon-to-be senior at Oklahoma State University, majoring in plant and soil sciences and animal science, I have been getting the best of both worlds and learning more than I ever thought I could about livestock and plant interactions. However, this summer has been the biggest learning curve yet. I was fortunate enough to have been selected as a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, giving me the chance to do what I always imagined I would do in a future career.
Lloyd Noble Scholar Mason Blinson observes a prescribed burn.
Throughout the summer, I have been expanding my knowledge of agriculture by diving into aspects that I had never previously experienced. Not only was I able to conduct my project with prescribed fire, but I got to help other scholars with projects like virtual fencing, mob grazing and collecting forage analysis, all while working with talented industry professionals, producers and scholars.
Timing Prescribed Burns for Best-Quality Forage
My project was to determine what time during the growing season is best to use prescribed burns in order to have higher forage quality in the fall and winter months. Before this summer, I had never been exposed to prescribed burns. Through the Noble Research Institute, I had the opportunity to conduct burns at the Coffey Ranch in Love County, Oklahoma, while working alongside professionals like livestock consultant Ryon Walker, Ph.D., and wildlife and fisheries consultant Steven Smith. With Steven, I traveled around Oklahoma and Texas to participate in prescribed burn events and workshops and meet producers in the region while learning about prescribed fire. I now know the benefits of prescribed burning and can use this in my future career.
Prescribed burns can improve pasture forage quality.
One of my favorite parts about being a Lloyd Noble Scholar is being exposed to a great network of individuals with expertise in so many facets of the industry. Within the close quarters of the scholar office, I am able to interact with peers whose interests range from economics to feedlots to entomology and more. As scholars, we attended presentations and workshops throughout the summer, including traveling to Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University to tour facilities and hear professors describe their research. The Noble Research Institute also hosts workshops and presentations, bringing speakers in from all over the world to educate producers, and we were lucky enough to be able to attend.
Mentor Helps Further Scholar’s Education
My mentor, Ryon Walker, has helped me so much in preparation for further education. He is always the one to challenge me with tough questions and scenarios. Because of him, I have learned to evaluate research and come up with out-of-the-box solutions. I am now able to look at a well-managed operation and challenge a producer to continue moving forward. These new skills, coupled with the information I have gained from speakers, farm visits, and experiences, are what made this “One Noble Summer.”
About the Author
Mason Blinson is a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Buies Creek, North Carolina. Mason grew up showing cattle on a third-generation Hereford operation, promoting herd longevity while focusing on strategic management using optimal forage utilization. She will be a senior majoring in plant and soil sciences and animal science at Oklahoma State University.