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1999 Beef & Bison Production Field Day

Bison Nutrition Research and Progress in the Development of NDSU Bison Research Facilities

Vern Anderson, Ph.D.

Bison Research

A major research project is underway with eight cooperating bison producers across North and South Dakota. The project: "Maximizing forage and minimizing grain intake in bison bulls fed for meat" will evaluate animal performance, carcass traits, meat quality, and economics. The two year feeding study will be summarized and reported when completed.

On farm research is important to the development of the bison industry. Produces with the time, interest, and ability may be able to secure grant funds for comparison projects. There are a number of two treatment trials that can be made relatively easily. If you have interest is doing some research or know of a bison producer who does, I encourage you to press forward with it. Please contact the Carrington Center or other NDSU staff if we can be of assistance.

Bison Research Facilities

Construction was initiated in the fall of 1997 on the bison nutrition research facility located on US Hiway 281 at the Carrington Research Extension Center Livestock Unit. The bison research area (Figure 1) will consist of 16 feeding pens with a working area that includes 8 small holding pens for sorting, a crowding tub, alleys, chute, and scale. One small pen will house two fistulated bison for digestion trials. Grants totaling $35,390 have been received for construction to supplement appropriated funds. Grants have been received from the North Dakota Buffalo Association ($10,000), National Bison Association, ($10,000), and other producer organizations, ($3,000). Powder River handling equipment was procured with the USDA National Research Initiative competitive grant for $12,390 with matching funds required by NDSU for a total of $24,780 for equipment. In-kind contributions from Lee’s Construction, Kensal, ND and the ND Army National Guard, Det 2, Co A, 141st Engr Cbt Bn for earth moving in site preparation amount to approximately $90,000. The estimate for the entire facility above the in-kind contributions is approximately $180,000.

The research facility fences will be constructed of steel (drill stem and sucker rod). Pens will be 60 x 72 feet with 30 feet of fenceline bunk per pen. Concrete will be placed in appropriate high traffic areas near feed bunks and water fountains. Runoff from each contiguous 4 pen unit will be collected in separate adjacent solids settling basins and flow to holding ponds for evaporation or pumping to cropland. This system will allow the replicated study of waste management, (i.e. manure or runoff differences from different dietary treatments) in cooperation with NDSU Agricultural Engineers.

Construction of weirs (concrete channels) from the solids settling pond to the water holding ponds will be required to eliminate erosion, measuring flow rate, and sampling runoff from snowmelt and rainfall events. The waste containment holding ponds will be connected with pipe to nearby fields and a pump and sprinkler system will be required to distribute liquid accumulation.

To date, (June 1999) the earth moving for site preparation is completed, grass has been planted on the earthworks, the working chutes have been purchased and are in place, water and electric service have been installed to 8 pens, and steel has been procured for the fences and alleys for eight pens. Some of the fence panels have been welded. Concrete aprons and feedbunks have been placed in four pens and some of the pipe posts have been installed. After July 1, pen construction will continue with welders assembling and fastening fence components in place. Pen surfacing will be done with various combinations of fly ash and concrete to test the durability and usefulness of this coal industry by-product. This is a joint NDSU-UND (EERC) project.

Bison research projects will focus on nutrition and feed management of bison bulls from weaning to market. Studies in nutrient requirements, meat quality, animal health, drug residue, care and management will be incorporated into the nutrition projects. Bison used for studies will be provided by area producer(s). It is anticipated that the first animals will occupy the facility in the fall of 1999.

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