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Ag Division's Research Efforts Expanded in 2006

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I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on the significant happenings in the research arena here in Noble's Agricultural Division during 2006.

We, like most of you, can't start a discussion of 2006 without a note about the significant drought that occurred. (I hope this is past tense.) Hay supplies are short, and most of our cow herds are about 0.5-1.0 body condition score lower than we would like to see them. Additionally, we weaned our spring calves 60 to 75 days early this year. The calves from one of our cow-calf projects went to the feedyard after a 60-day backgrounding period 65 pounds lighter than those from last year. Some of our forage trials were complete failures due to lack of rainfall during establishment. Thankfully, however, we greatly benefited from recently added irrigation capabilities at the Red River Farm, the Dupy Farm and at Research Park. Without irrigation, many more projects would have been set back multiple years.

In spring 2006, we initiated a collaborative project with Oklahoma State University's College of Veterinary Medicine to survey the 2006 calf crop from the Ag Division's Beef Production System (BPS) for calves that are persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhea (PI BVD). BPS is an educational consulting support program consisting of 31 ranches in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas represented by more than 5,000 breeding cows. This is one of the most complete cow herd-focused surveys for PI BVD in the United States today and will greatly enhance the current body of knowledge about this complex disease. Findings from the survey are expected to be used directly by Noble cooperators.

Several varieties of cereal grain rye have been developed here at Noble over the years. The Ag Division produced the initial foundation seed of the most recently released variety, "Maton II," in spring 2006. Grain production conditions were extremely tough this spring, but through the concerted efforts of many, a significant amount of foundation seed was successfully produced.

We continue to add to the resource base available for consulting support research purposes here in the Ag Division. A new centralized cattle receiving and backgrounding facility is being constructed at the Oswalt Ranch. This facility will feature 11 6-acre paddocks along with a state-of-the-art processing facility. At the Dupy Farm, we are constructing a facility that will allow us to conduct intensive grazing projects. This facility will not only provide us with 18 2-acre paddocks to study cattle gain on new forages or combinations of forages, these paddocks also have the capability of being irrigated with a linear irrigation system to facilitate stand establishment in times of diminished rainfall.

No recollection of happenings in 2006 would be complete without mentioning Noble's involvement in the nationwide biofuels effort. As Dr. Joe Bouton, Director of the Forage Improvement Division, wrote in the August 2006 Ag News and Views, "Aligned with Noble's primary focus of improving forages for livestock production, the Noble Research Institute will initially focus on improving native grasses for use in ethanol production. Noble has targeted switchgrass as its first energy crop." The excitement and effort stimulated by this new focus is staggering. A feasible biofuels crop for Oklahoma and North Texas could revolutionize the face of agriculture in our region.

While focusing on the new and "flashy" projects is easy to do, we have not decreased the effort put toward the 35 or so research and demonstration projects currently ongoing that seek to address specific consulting-initiated, cooperator-relevant production issues. Attempting to quantify results for these issues is the primary focus of the Research Group in the Ag Division. We will be conducting a Research Field Day on April 28, 2007, that will feature many of these efforts and showcase some of our recent developments and findings. I encourage you to mark your calendars now. More information will be available soon.