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As I began the summer here in Ardmore, I didn't comprehend the experience I was about to have. I was able to work alongside some of the most influential ranchers north of the Red River and had the opportunity to understand the ranching way of life.
We started analyzing GrowSafe Beef data today. The GrowSafe Beef system is a ginormous database and the focus of my summer here with the Noble Research Institute.
A majority of our time at the Noble Research Institute the past few weeks has been consumed by the scholars' annual grazing project, consisting of prairie species identification and what seemed like endless moving of cattle. Through this process, we became relatively knowledgeable about these native grasslands and all that the prairie encompasses, which up to this point I had only read about in books.
The sun breaks over the shrubby horizon, warming the Oklahoma landscape and setting the sky ablaze with the vibrant pinks and oranges of dawn. On the slight ridge that overlooks the cattle pastures of Oswalt Ranch, the cowboy surveys the fields from atop his trusty steed, a green four-wheeler ... wait a second! What happened to his horse?
Growing up, agriculture was symbolized by cattle, the hard work of my grandparents and the wide open spaces of northwestern Colorado. Today, as a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, agriculture is being presented on a much larger scope and with a deeper significance that is no longer limited to just cattle.
So one of the tasks we have taken upon ourselves as Summer Scholars is to try out the local fare. One weekend we made the short trip north from Ardmore, Okla., to small town named Davis for barbeque at Smokin' Joe's Rib Ranch.
The mob grazing project for the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture came as a blessing for the early birds in our group, but a rude awakening to the night owls.
Twice a week for the last month, we have helped Ira and Seth with the rotational grazing project by collecting fecal and forage samples from 24 calves on 12, one-acre paddocks. The goal is to gather information about what the cattle eat and how plant communities respond in different grazing situations.
Looking at the stubborn seeds that had refused to germinate, it was clear that we would be repeating the experiment for the third time. The 360 sad, little Medicago truncatula seeds stared up at me from within their plastic tubes and refused to offer any usable data.
May 19 was a peculiar morning. The air was sticky, and the sky was gray. It was my first day of work as a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture. Nervous is not a word I commonly use to describe myself, but the anxiety I felt about the summer ahead had my stomach doing somersaults.