Since accepting the position of the Agricultural Division's consulting support research manager, numerous individuals have asked me if I have had to drastically refocus my viewpoint on research and consultation. Surprisingly to many, my answer is "No, I haven't had to change my viewpoint much at all." The need for sound research on which to base consulting recommendations was a normal part of the operating procedure while I served as a livestock specialist.
Two deficiencies in using research were definitely magnified through the consulting effort. One was the lack of adoption of production practices that have been proven beneficial through sound research. The other was the lack of sound research in some areas of need. These two deficiencies have and will continue to form the framework for the research and demonstration efforts of the Agricultural Division.
From a demonstration standpoint, we will strive to basically "show" something or to learn or illustrate a technique. An example of a demonstration is showing the differences in weaning weight of a straight-bred calf versus an F1 crossbred calf. By exposing producers to a demonstration of this type, a consultant could demonstrate the reason for recommending the production of a crossbred calf. While numerous research projects have accurately quantified the differences due to heterosis (hybrid vigor), sometimes it is more effective to "show" this advantage to a producer.
An additional benefit to conducting demonstrations is to allow consultants the opportunity to gain experience using a new technique or method. An example of this is implementing a new estrus synchronization protocol prior to artificially inseminating a set of cows. If a consultant has experience using this protocol, they will be much more comfortable and confident in recommending the application of this technology.
While demonstration will continue to be a meaningful portion of our effort, the primary area of emphasis will be to design, implement, analyze and report results for research projects primarily originating from issues Ag Division consultants encounter while working with cooperators. When issues arise in the consulting arena that can't be readily addressed by the consulting specialist, a thorough literature review will be conducted to determine if the answer has already been investigated. Many times, an answer or approximate answer to the situation may already exist in previous research.
If a meaningful answer does not exist and it is deemed relevant, this issue can be developed into a research project proposal that the Ag Division may elect to pursue. Research proposals are evaluated on a number of areas, including potential benefit to cooperators, multi-disciplinary involvement of project, potential cost effectiveness of practices, potential adaptability of practice by producers and potential to discover or explore new ideas or opportunities. As illustrated by these criteria, the focus of the research efforts in the Ag Division primarily is on strengthening the consulting effort, ultimately helping cooperators achieve their financial, production and quality-of-life goals.