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Graduate Student Program at the Noble Research Institute

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In the April issue of the Ag News and Views, Wadell Altom, Director of the Agricultural Division, shared the Ag Division's mission statement. It is to "assist agricultural producers and other managers of natural resources to achieve their financial, production, stewardship and quality-of-life goals through consultation, education, research and demonstration." Many resources are dedicated to achieve this mission - primarily on the behalf of producers working with a consultation team. Our hope, however, is that our efforts will also benefit others who are not working directly with one of our consultation teams or who live outside of our service area.

One opportunity to accomplish this is in working with students pursuing a postgraduate degree in agriculture or in a field related to agriculture. These students are able to closely interact with both Noble Research Institute personnel and producers working with our consultation teams. Their research is dedicated to addressing production, economic or quality-of-life issues that are vital to our mission.

One such program concluded in December 2006 and explored feeding soybean hulls (SBH) on small grain pasture (rye) to determine the effect of fall stocking rates and self-fed supplemental SBH on the performance of growing calves. This work was conducted by Kristin Hales, while pursuing a Master of Science degree in animal science from Oklahoma State University. Kristin grew up farming and ranching while assisting her father and grandfather on their purebred seedstock operation in the Texas panhandle.

Kristin's research was based on findings from previous work conducted at the Noble Research Institute's Red River Farm, where we found that, in moderately stocked rye pastures, cattle consumed SBH, offered in self-feeders, at 1.3 percent of their body weight. Our intent was to explore the potential to leverage this interaction to increase total production (on a per acre basis) by altering stocking rates without negatively affecting individual animal performance.

Figure 1 depicts performance characteristics for the five treatments, as well as defines these treatments. Explanation and interpretation of these findings can be found in greater detail in an article published in the Professional Animal Scientist (August 2007).

In summary, providing growing cattle ad libitum access to soybean hulls in winter rye pasture production programs:

  1. allows for the leveraging of land resources so that initial stocking rate can be greatly increased (while also increasing financial risk due to the increased investment in cattle);
  2. increases the number of cattle that can be purchased on seasonally low markets in the fall;
  3. decreases production risk by providing an energy supplement during periods of low forage availability; and
  4. increases beef production per acre by up to threefold with no reduction in individual animal performance.

Dedicating the resources necessary to conduct this research has resulted in the potential to affect the decision-making ability of countless stocker producers both in and out of the Noble Research Institute's service area, while also investing in the future of agriculture - Kristin is currently working on her Ph.D. We would say that is money and time well spent.

If you would like additional information about this research, please give us a call (580)224-6500.

We would like to acknowledge and extend sincere appreciation to Dr. Gerald Horn and the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University for their contributions to this research. We would also like to thank the countless Noble Research Institute employees that assisted with this research; without them, this program and the results thereof would not have been possible.