AMARILLO — Efforts to expand and increase animal nutrition research by scientists at Bushland’s USDA-Agricultural Research Service Laboratory and Texas A&M’s Agricultural Experiment Station have gained momentum in a very short time, said Dr. John Sweeten, resident research director at A&M’s Experiment Station here.
Station personnel along with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, and West Texas A&M University’s Agriculture Division are working to expand those studies at Bushland as never before.
“This truly is a multi-agency effort,” said Dr. R. Nolan Clark, director of Bushland’s USDA Conservation and Production Research Laboratory.
The research team includes: A&M nutritionist Dr. L. Wayne Greene, who holds a joint appointment with WTAMU; Dr. N. Andy Cole, USDA animal scientist; Dr. C. W. Purdy, USDA veterinarian; Dr. F. T. “Ted” McCollum III, Extension Service beef cattle specialist, Dr. Norbert K. Chirase, also with a split appointment between the Experiment Station and WTAMU, and Dr. Brent Auvermann, Experiment Station engineer and Extension environmental quality specialist.
The research team collaborates closely with WTAMU’s Feedlot Research Group comprised of Dr. Louis Perino, veterinary immunologist; Dr. David Parker, environmental engineer; Dr. Ted Montgomery, meat scientist; and a beef cattle nutritionist to be hired in the near future.
“We’re confident that steps taken now will increase the benefits to this region’s cattle feeding industry,” said Greene.
“Sharing our expertise and facilities helps everyone, especially the industry we want to help,” said Cole. The team uses the metabolism laboratory, feedyard, barn, animal handling and processing facilities, and pasture and grazing lands in all aspects of their work.
“Right now, our metabolism laboratory consists of approximately 5,000 square feet of space for animal studies, a chemistry laboratory, a small room for sample preparation, and an area for diet preparation,” said Greene. The animal studies area contains six metabolism stalls for cattle and 12 metabolism stalls for sheep along with several individual pens for small cattle. The diet preparation room is equipped with a portable experimental diet mixer, storage space for premixes, small batch diets and liquid supplements.
“Support for this work and the specialized feedyard lab comes through industry partnerships and our efforts to increase the number of research grants and contracts,” said Sweeten.
The experimental feedyard is in the final stages of completion, according to Greene. The unique 30-pen facility has room for 10-15 head of cattle per pen. The enclosed barn has an animal working area used to process cattle and sort them into individual pens.
The facility can be further subdivided into six “group” pens, designed to feed 12-15 head per pen. Another 18 environmental pens are under construction, designed to collect nutrient-laden feedlot run-off from individual pens. This unique layout permits upwind and downwind air quality sampling for studies led by Dr. Auvermann, who specializes in feedyard odor and dust control. Twelve of these pens have a hard surface base, and six contain a clay loam base.
“Most feedyards traditionally have areas set aside for convalescent pens in time of sickness,” said Chirase. Four such units are part of Bushland’s expansion. Three more pens are reserved for shipping and receiving animals.
“A specialized feeding barn is equipped with 12 Calan gates where cattle are rationed individually,” said McCollum. A Calan gate is an electronically controlled door to a feed bin, capable of being opened by only one animal per pen. The apparatus enables scientists to record the precise feed intake per animal. In addition, four small ruminant pens have been constructed to house 10-15 animals each.
The team also runs grass and forage studies on native range pastures contained on more than 1,000 acres. “The acreage has been divided into four main areas for our research needs,” said McCollum.
One unit, dubbed the “East Pasture,” has over 140 acres of native range. Another has a playa lake, and more than 240 acres. A third or “South Section,” contains over 300 acres, subdivided into three 100-acre cells. It features a cattle working facility.
The fourth pasture is located on more than 240 acres of native range at the James E. Bush Farm, 1.5 miles north of Bushland on FM 2381. The farm is operated by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. Here the team works with agronomists in studies involving cattle performance on wheat pasture. Some 250 acres of cropland also are available to grow wheat intended for pasture, using a flood irrigation system.