Researcher investigates productivity, grazing system solutions at Va. Tech
BLACKSBURG, Va. — A researcher in Virginia Tech’s Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences is interested in improving animal productivity in grazing systems, he said in a recent interview at the university’s Beef Center.
Dr. Bain Wilson said he has a lot of interest in improving animal productivity in grazing systems. He is currently involved in two research projects dealing with possibilities to meet these goals at the Shenandoah Valley Research and Extension Center’s (SVAREC) McCormick Farm.
Wilson wears several hats at the university where he is an assistant professor of beef production and livestock programs, the livestock judging coach and state beef quality assurance program coordinator.
The results of his first research project at McCormick Farm will be presented at the American Society of Animal Science Annual Meeting in July in Vancouver, British Columbia in July, he reported. He is excited to be making the trip and having his work recognized.
His graduate student, Keri Hardin of Wytheville, Va., is set to make the presentation of the research. Hardin who is scheduled to receive her Master’s Degree in beef cattle nutrition this spring has worked with Bain on the research.
Wilson reported that this is the first phase of evaluating the energy value of corn gluten to cattle fed forage-based rations. Wilson noted that feed tables tend to underestimate the value of this cheap, economical source of protein for cattle.
He has found that when the corn gluten is actually fed to steers they had an increased average daily gain.
The growing steers in his experiment at the McCormick Farm were fed in feedlot type pens in the research. Some were fed cracked corn and others were fed pelleted corn gluten in three targeted levels.
“We saw that the cattle fed corn gluten feed had higher average daily gain relative to corn,” he explained.
The cattle were studied in the feedlot environment, he said, in order to measure individual animals to gather data. The Virginia Agricultural Council sponsored Phase I.
Plans for Phase II to continue this study are now underway. This research will be looking at cattle in grazing situations and how they respond to being fed corn gluten supplements.
Wilson is also working on research into work done by Dr. David Fiske, superintendent of the SVAREC. Fiske has developed a grazing study for evaluating the summer stockpiling of fescue for cattle.
Virginia Cooperative Extension agents John Benner and Matt Booher took forage measurements of summer stockpiled toxic fescue pastures for two years.
Bain said no actual research has evaluated animal performance with cattle grazing has been done into Fiske’s proposal in Virginia.
Virginia beef producers already stockpile a lot of fescue for late fall and winter grazing and have a strong spring grazing season. The months of August and September, which are often hot and dry can bring a shortage of grazing and make it necessary to feed hay or graze diminished pastures.
Fiske’s proposal, Wilson reported, is to set aside some pasture that will be ready for grazing in the hot months, thus having feed stockpiled when it is needed. He sees this approach as a needed bridge in the state’s grazing systems.
Wilson was surprised by the results in the first year of this research. The study looked at daily rate of gain in cows grazing endophyte infected and non-endophyte fescue.
He said the researchers saw no differences in the performances of cows grazing endophyte-infected and non-toxic. It does have an endophyte in it;
This led them to the conclusion mature cows grazing for a short time are not affected by the toxic endophyte. The cows in this research grazed for 54 days.
He sees indications that cattle could be grazed on MaxQ, which contains endophytes and non-toxic during the hot months. MaxQ does have an endophyte in it; just one that does not degrease animal performance, he reported.
When temperatures are high and heat stress is a problem, this kind of stockpiled fescue could be a tool with the toxic fescue being grazed in the fall when temperatures are lower.
Plans are to repeat the experiment this summer to see if the initial findings hold true in further research.
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