1. Blog
  2. Ranching in the South

Happy Calving Season!

By Penny Sparks
Research Assistant 1

Posted Mar. 20, 2017

It's my favorite time of year. Brand new baby calves take their first steps into the world, and it's a beautiful thing. I still remember the first one I watched, and I've been hooked on it ever since.

At Red River Farm, the herdsmen have been busy taking care of the new baby calves since early February. The cows are bred in May each year, and I anxiously await for the first calf to arrive. Cow Z301 just calved before I took this photo. Here are some pictures of her heifer calf.

Newborn Angus heifer calfPhoto by Penny Sparks
A newborn Angus heifer calf at the Red River Farm.

Calf taking her first stepPhoto by Penny Sparks
A newborn Angus heifer calf taking her first step at the Red River Farm.

Calves are weighed, vaccinated and given an ear tag soon after their born. We give the calves a vaccination at birth to help boost their immunity to scours, a common problem in young calves that dehydrates them quickly and can lead to other problems. Other than that, the cows do the rest of the work.

Another Noble Research Institute research farm with a cow herd is the Pasture Demonstration Farm (PDF), located just west of Ardmore, which is also producing calves this time of year. These calves look different because the cows there (mainly Angus with some black baldy cows such as the one shown below) have been crossed with a Hereford bull instead of Black Angus or Charolais bull. Here are some photos that the researchers took of those calves this spring.

Cow and calfPhoto by Matt Bumpass
Cow and calf at Pasture Demonstration Farm.

CalvesPhoto by Gregg Sweeten
Calves at Pasture Demonstration Farm.

Each animal born on a farm at Noble has a job to do. Their purpose here at the Noble Research Institute is to serve as a research tool for projects ranging from cattle feed studies to serving as a forage harvester on small grains test plots. (What a job – eating all day!) Our cattle are utilized in as many ways as possible to maximize research output and put weight on cattle economically. In many cases cattle are weaned, placed on a project, and then are brought back to Oswalt Road Ranch to finish gaining weight before marketing.

Cattle at the Noble Research Institute have illustrious research careers. One of the primary groups that uses our weaned calves is the newly formed cluster group called Plant-Animal Interactions. Cluster groups were designed to expedite collaboration efforts among research groups at the Noble Research Institute as well as those involved in similar pursuits at other higher education facilities. The ultimate goal is to develop products, tools and systems to help improve upon our current beef grazing systems through emphasizing research on each part of a described ecosystem. In our case – soil, plant, and animal interactions, and how those interactions relate to productivity and a producer's bottom line.

Currently, the Plant-Animal Interactions cluster group is headed up by Twain Butler, Ph.D., of the Forage Improvement Division and James Rogers, Ph.D., of the Agricultural Division. Their combined efforts have produced three main overarching research goals aimed at forage systems that produce 365 days per year:

  1. Developing forage systems that maximize cow-calf grazing and reduce supplementation, whether hay or other concentrated feedstuff.
  2. Advancing stocker production options by developing and evaluating summer forage systems based on animal performance and economics.
  3. Evaluating summer cover crops as a means to bridge the gap between winter pasture periods as well as assess soil moisture changes and soil health in both tilled soil and no-tilled soil situations.

Mixed forage grazingPhoto by Photo by Rob Mattson
Mixed forage grazing at Pasture Demonstration Farm.

No matter how many ideas we have, our capacity is defined by our efforts. We strive each day on the ranch to provide sound research tools for both scientists and producers. Our ranches are our stomping grounds where each new birth leads to new beginnings. Providing more producers with the ability to realize their dreams, one day at a time.

An Angus and Charolais cross calfPhoto by Photo by Rob Mattson
A calf (Angus and Charolais cross) at the Red River Farm.

Comments