Cooperative Sheep Production Meeting: Clay Center, NE

Last Saturday I spent the day in a classroom at the US Meat Animal Research Center learning about sheep production and tools put out by University of Wyoming Extension to help producers make the best possible management decisions. The meeting was a cooperation between the University of Wyoming Extension, Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center, Nebraska Sheep and Goat Producers and the US Department of Agriculture. There were three speakers each extension educators at the University of Wyoming and consultants at Master Stockman Consulting.

The first speaker was Bridger Feuz, who spoke about the economics of raising sheep.  Economics is important in sheep production to improve profits and build relationships and partnerships with bankers.  As in most of agriculture, tight margins for profit exist when raising sheep.  It is important to budget for every possibility to make the best possible decision for the operation.  The first tool Mr. Feuz introduced was the US Baseline Cost of Production.  This tool allows producers to see where they are relative to the average cost to produce sheep.  It also showed that often in years when the sheep market was down the cattle market was up and vice versa therefore supporting diversification of enterprises in ranching.  The second tool introduced by Mr. Feuz was the Partial Budgeting calculator.  This tool along with the other rest of the tools Mr. Feuz went on to describe can be used for all classes of livestock not just sheep.  It helps producers make better business decisions by answering 4 questions when making changes to an operation:

  1. What new or additional costs will be incurred?
  2. What current income will be lost?
  3. What new or additional income will be received?
  4. What current costs will be reduced?

The other tools Mr. Feuz breiefly explained were the Break-Even Calculator, the Ewe Valuation Calculator, Market Comparison Tool, and Net Present Value Analysis used for pasture improvement.  All these tools can be found at www.uwyoextension.org/ranchtools.

The second speaker was Barton Stam, a forage specialist.  He spoke about meeting the nutritional needs of sheep.  First, Mr. Stam stressed the importance of providing livestock with quality water.  Ward Laboratories, Inc. can run a livestock suitability test to help producers determine if their water is fit for animal consumption.  He recommended timing the grazing of warm and cool season grasses to optimize protein content of the grass with the protein needs to the animal.  Additionally, he recommended grazing the plant before it had reached maturity.  By grazing before the grass has produced a seed head, the potential to graze regrowth later in the season is more likely.  A plant grazed before reaching maturity will continue to grow and trying to produce a seed head.  Once the seed head has been produced however, the plant has achieved its goal and will no longer to continue to grow and produce valuable forage.  His take away was to graze grasses before they reach reproductive maturity to obtain better nutritional value for the animal and potentially stockpile more forage for later grazing.  He also recommended sampling cane type grasses for prussic acid and nitrates.  Producers can send those samples to Ward Laboratories, Inc. for analysis. Mr. Stam introduced the Stocking Rate Calculator as a useful tool for sheep producers to use in decision making.

The third, and final speaker for the morning was Dr. Whit Stewart.  The topic Dr. Stewart addressed was parasite control and resistance of sheep parasites to anthelmintics. The American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control was introduced to the group of producers as a good source of information regarding parasites, dewormers, and resistance issues. Dr. Stewart recommended producers consider using either the McMaster test or DrenchRite® to determine which dewormers are going to be most effective on their operation and if they have resistance issue with specific anthelmintics. He concluded by speaking about the future potential for natural compounds such as condensed tannins to be utilized to fight parasites.

Overall, each speaker introduced new tools to help producers make the best possible decisions.  Like the tools introduced by the speakers, feed and water analysis at Ward Laboratories, Inc. are also tools to help ranchers make the best possible informed decisions.

It’s Not What You Know It’s Who You Consult

As I was traveling last week to Minnesota for Foss NIR training, I happened to catch an interview with Ray Gaesser, a candidate for the nomination of the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.  Currently, Gaesser is the president of the American Soybean Association.  During the interview Gaesser stated that while he may have held many positions in soybean associations and spent many years farming in Iowa, he does not know all there is to know about agriculture, but he knows someone in each sector of the industry that does know about their area of agriculture.  This idea of not knowing yourself, but having someone to consult describes the culture here at Ward Laboratories Inc.  We have professional staff to consult on a variety of agricultural topics.

ray-ward

Ray Ward is the founder of Ward Laboratories Inc.  He has been consulting with customers since the ’80s and has developed a reputation of providing solid information for the best possible decisions for a farming enterprise.  Dr. Ward is very knowledgeable, with a B.S. and M.S. in Soil Science and a Ph.D. in Plant Science. He advises customers as to best fertilization practices, no-till farming, cover crop use, plant health issues, water testing and monitoring, and more.  Farmers and ranchers often turn to Dr. Ward’s experience and expertise when they encounter an unusual problem or issue.

nick-ward

Nick Ward is the president of Ward Laboratories Inc., he has earned his Ph.D. in Agronomy and is a trusted resource for many local agronomist, and helps customers make planting decisions and solve plant health issues.  Sometimes, people even bring in sick plants and he can help them solve the issue in the login room.  In addition to Dr. Nick Ward, Hannah Gaebel and Terry Buettner are support agronomists and they play a huge role by going out and visiting customers.  Hannah has a Bachelor’s in Agronomy and Terry has been involved in the agriculture industry for about 34 years.

 

 

Emily Shafto has authored a couple blog posts related to soil health.  Farmers and ranchers who are dedicated to taking care of their land from a soil health perspective can consult with either Emily, who has a Master’s Degree in Natural Resources or Lance Gunderson, who is currently working on a Ph.D. in Soil Microbial Ecology.  Both are great resources for help interpreting Haney or PFLA soil analysis results and generally gaining a better understanding of how various farming practices such as tilling or cover crops affects the soil below.

jeremy

Another person who is a huge asset to our lab is our lab manager Jeremy Dalland, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and then worked his way through the lab from lab tech to his current position.  He is a self-taught resource to all things soil, water, fertilizer, manure, and feed analysis. If you have ever called the lab while I’m out chances are Jeremy helped you with your livestock feeding questions.

me and keno

If you follow this blog, then you know I am the Animal Scientist and I am available to consult on interpretation of feed and NIR samples.  I also help producers solve animal nutrition and health issues.  Mineral issues and sub-clinical illnesses potentially brought on by moldy feeds are common situations producers seek my guidance on.  Helping with diet formulations and supplementation strategies are also topics I commonly discuss with customers.  In addition to earning a Master of Animal Sciences in Ruminant Nutrition and my working experience at the US Meat Animal Research Center, I commonly attend educational meetings and take advantage of extension events.

I am not the only one who attends these events, Dr. Ray Ward, Dr. Nick Ward, Lance, Emily, Hannah, and Terry can often be found staying up to date on current research in their respective field.  Through these meetings and events, our team makes expert contacts and when a producer’s questions are not in our realm of expertise, we can reach out to these experts for the best possible information in our consulting.

As you can see, there is a great deal of knowledge about various sectors of the agriculture industry here at Ward Laboratories Inc.  From Agronomy to Animal Science, if you have a production question or need help with agricultural testing feel free to contact us.  If we don’t know the answer, chances are we know someone who does.