2007 Research Highlights
The Carrington Research Extension Center conducts research and educational programs to enhance the productivity, competitiveness, and diversity of agriculture in central North Dakota. The research effort focuses on traditional crop variety evaluation, crop production and management, alternative crop development, cropping systems, irrigation, integration of crop and livestock production, beef cattle feeding, feedlot management, intensive cow/calf production, foundation seedstocks production, and the development of new agricultural enterprises. The central location of the Carrington Center is significant in that the research program is able to address research needs that represent a significant part of agriculture in North Dakota.
Following are a few examples of our significant impacts and contributions over the past year.
Biomass production for bio-energy industry: One of the future opportunities in production agriculture is biomass feedstock production for an emerging bio-energy industry. Ethanol from cellulosic biomass, a next generation renewable bio-energy, can be produced from crop residues and perennial grasses growing on marginal land. The CREC initiated a series of research projects to investigate biomass production. Projects including evaluation of perennial grass and winter annual grass productivity, breeding and management of switchgrass and prairie cordgrass, and crop residue management will contribute to this new effort.
Crop performance test sites expanded: The evaluation of varieties or hybrids of specific crops is an important part of the CREC’s agronomy research program. Growers and industry both depend upon the CREC to provide an un-biased evaluation of crop cultivar performance and the subsequent comparison of lines within a trial. It is often noted that one of the most important decisions made in putting together a crop production plan is determining which cultivars will be selected for planting. The Carrington Center has responsibilities to represent a significant portion of the Drift Prairie region of North Dakota. In response to grower and industry requests, the CREC established a corn hybrid performance test site near Fingal and a soybean performance test at our Oakes Irrigation Research Site.
Assessing corn production inputs: The region of the state that the CREC represents has seen a major expansion in corn acreage in recent years. Corn production techniques are changing in response to larger acreages, higher input costs, new hybrids, and a growing emphasis on environmental protection. The optimum or proper fertilizer rates and application are production factors that growers are questioning during these times. The CREC initiated several corn management studies to examine nitrogen, phosphorus, and zinc application rates and methods. Newly established corn rotation trials and tillage trials with emphasis on strip till are also expected to contribute to improved efficiency in corn production.
Plant disease misting systems expanded: A growing number of public and private industry researchers are looking to collaborate with the CREC research team on plant disease control projects. The CREC doubled the infrastructure and acreage available for plant disease research with misting systems to 22 acres to help satisfy this demand. Misting systems help ensure the presence of plant diseases which allows researchers to make progress annually in their efforts to assess the benefits of different disease control procedures. Misting systems effectively compliment the natural environment at Carrington which naturally is conducive to the expression of many plant diseases.
Distillers grains and barley: Distillers grains and barley complement each other as feed sources in feedlot diets. Calves gained the fastest with 24% distillers grains in the barley-based feedlot finishing diets and carcass quality traits increased with more distillers grains in the ration. These two feeds complemented with forages and appropriate supplements can support a growing feedlot industry in North Dakota given competitive price structure.
Natural feed supplement: A natural feed supplement tested in recent trials is competitive with a conventional ionophore for newly received calves. This new-generation supplement from Ralco Nutrition Inc. contains all natural products that complement each other and the base ration. Products such as this are vital to an economically successful natural beef feeding and marketing industry in North Dakota.
Field peas improved steak tenderness: Field pea improved tenderness in ribeye steaks with a greater effect observed when feeding peas for longer periods. Ribeyes from steers fed peas for 160 days were more tender than when peas were fed for just 60 days prior to market, however, all pea-fed steers were more tender than the control steers.
Distillers grains improve field pea and barley ration: Field peas and barley are grown in the same region and complement each other agronomically. In feedlot research trials, however, diets with field peas and barley benefited greatly from the addition of distillers grains to provide more rumen-bypass protein, more digestible fiber, and additional fat. Field peas fed with corn grain did not benefit from adding distillers grains. Feedlot diets need to be formulated with complementary feeds to meet requirements of the animals.
Producers learn the feedlot value of calves:The 2006-07 Eastern ND Cattle Feedout project at the CREC included 27 producers who consigned 212 calves. Producers earned an additional $153.95 per head profit by owning these calves to slaughter. More importantly, the top five profitable herds averaged $93.35 more per head over that average of all herds. These top five herd owners are changing their management strategy to retain the opportunity for additional value.
Beef carcass competitions create learning environments: The Dakota Feeder Calf Show based in Turtle Lake has consistently shown top cattle return more profit. During the past six years, top performing cattle averaged $114 per head more profit than the average of all cattle consigned at the feedout at the CREC. Of the 37 herds represented in 2006-07 trial, the top herd averaged $136. Participating producers are changing herd genetics to improve performance and profitability in their calves.
ND Discovery Farms: In response to concerns raised by all segments of the livestock industry, support and funding for the ND Discovery Farms project was acquired in late 2007. Two farm families in North Dakota volunteered to be the initial Discovery Farms and the project will focus on identifying surface water runoff impacts of small and medium livestock feeding operations using intensive runoff water monitoring. ND Discovery Farms is a cooperative effort of the two farm families, NDSU, the United States Geological Survey and the ND Dept. of Health.
CAFO Record Keeping
Simplified: In cooperation with the ND Dept. of Health, a
new extension publication was developed that allows owners and managers
of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) to more easily
keep records required by North Dakota and the US EPA. This is the
first time all the information needed will be in one easy-to-use document
and it includes a postcard that can be mailed to the ND Dept. of Health
on an annual basis to meet reporting requirements. To further enhance
the use of the publication, it is available as hard copy or in an
electronic spreadsheet format.