Last year, I wrote three articles covering the new projects that began in 2003. We are not planning to begin as many new projects this year, so I will cover them all in one article. Please note that meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn from these projects, in most cases, in less than three years, and there are many more details associated with each of these projects that cannot be elaborated on due to space limitations.
Billy Cook has initiated a new study that began with the purchase of 400 heifers late last year. It is entitled "Using Half-Sib Cows to Improve Uniformity of Growth and Carcass Traits." Two hundred of these where half-siblings (1/2 sib), all sired by the same Angus bull, the other 200 are called "traditional" heifers, that is, they were selected for phenotypic uniformity from local ranches. One hundred heifers of each group (1/2 sib and traditional) will be bred to full brother Angus bulls and 100 will be bred to full brother Limousin bulls. Production and carcass data will be collected on all calves. The objectives are to compare variation in growth and carcass traits between closely related (1/2 sib) and traditionally selected cowherds and to demonstrate advanced breeding and management concepts to cooperators, tour groups etc.
Grant Huggins will start two new projects in 2004 at our Oswalt Road Ranch property. The first is entitled "Fingerling Versus Adult Fish Stocking Strategies in Small Impoundments." This project is designed to evaluate the relative success of stocking fingerlings (1 to 3-in fish) versus adult fish in largemouth bass-bluegill ponds. The use of surplus adult fish is attractive relative to the $150 to $225 per surface acre cost of private hatchery fingerlings. However, there is conflicting information within the scientific community regarding the successful use of adult fish compared to fingerlings. To address this, we selected ten ponds with minimum characteristics of surface area (0.5 acres), depth (7 ft.), water clarity, etc. Each pond is paired with another having similar characteristics, and then one of each pair will be randomly selected for stocking with purchased fingerlings, the other with hook-and-line caught adult fish. Stocking results will be determined through samples collected in October 2007.
The other study Grant is beginning in 2004 is titled "Eastern Red Cedar Canopy Change on Burned and Unburned Rangeland." The Oklahoma National Resources Conservation Service technical committee considers juniper encroachment the state's number one natural resource concern. Prescribed fire is recognized as the most environmentally appropriate and cost-effective practice for reducing eastern red cedar. We have a 5,200-acre ranch where prescribed burns will be conducted annually beginning in January 2004. Our objectives are to document cedar canopy reduction due to ranch-scale prescribed burns; evaluate relative effects of fine fuel load, tree height, weather variables and cedar leaf moisture on cedar mortality; document cedar canopy growth rates on each range site; and document costs of prescribed burning.
Finally, James Rogers will begin a study called "Species and Variety Response of Cool-Season Perennial Forages to Stockpiling." Little research has been done to determine how cool-season perennial forages respond to fall and winter stockpiling in this area of the country where it is warm and prone to summer drought. The study is to be done in small plots, using mechanical clipping to determine forage yield and laboratory analysis of the forage to determine quality. The study will include standard Kentucky 31 tall fescue (wild type endophyte), NF 524 tall fescue (novel endophyte), Flecha summer dormant type tall fescue (novel endophyte), Jose tall wheatgrass, Manska pubescent wheatgrass and Luna pubescent wheatgrass. The objectives are to compare the quantity and quality of stockpiled cool-season perennial grasses; determine effect of harvest date on forage quantity, quality and persistence; and determine yield distribution of stockpiled cool-season perennial grasses.