ADS 4221: Capstone: Improving Forage Utilization

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course, who were assigned to work with a local livestock producer to solve a production challenge.

ASD 4221 - Little Creek Farm - Hallmark Unit

Our producer is an experienced and savvy cattleman.  This much was apparent when our group first met with him in August to discuss the challenge he presented to us.  He runs a beef cattle operation that specializes in Red Angus and Fleckvieh Simmental seed stock animals.  The producer asked our group to take a 175 acre parcel of land and develop a rotational forage plan.  The goal was for the land to produce enough forage for the animals to graze off of as well extra forage to store as hay for the winter months.  Overall, the producer was looking for 13 months worth of forage to maintain his animals.

Our group started with questions galore.  At first, every answer we found seemed to lead us to more questions.  We explored every aspect of the challenge we could think of.  We delved into soil types, forage types, nitrogen supplementation, animal requirements based off of mode of production, and much more.  With the invaluable help of Dr. David Lang of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, our group was able to sift through the information we had gathered about the land and its carrying capacity.  After hours spent over spreadsheets full of calculations and countless maps of the land, our group developed a forage plan that suited the specific needs of the producer’s cattle as they move through different phases of production throughout each year.

Our group is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with our producer and expand our knowledge in several aspects of animal agriculture.  This forage plan challenge has allowed us to apply the knowledge we gained in a real-world setting.  The project has also taught us about where to look for answers should we not know the answer immediately.  We, as Animal Science students, feel equipped with the knowledge necessary to enter the world of animal agriculture.