Beefline Demonstration Projects
Central North Dakota


Karl Hoppe, Andy Gross, Tim Becker, Randy Grueneich, John Swenson, and Tom Olson

North Dakota State University Extension Service,

 Carrington, Napoleon, New Rockford, Lisbon, Cooperstown and Jamestown



Five demonstration grants were procured to share research-based knowledge with cow calf producers.  In Logan County, a project sampling grasses will provide insight into mineral nutrition for grazing cows.  Water quality from numerous sources in Eddy County will explore the need for better care of water sources.  In Ransom County, alternative creep feeds may lead to similar production with reduced costs.  Using CHAPS software should benefit cow calf operators in Griggs County in making keep/cull decisions for the cow herd.  Balancing winter feed rations for low cost and better condition scores will demonstrate the value of good nutrition in Stutsman County.  The projects are currently being initiated with results to be collected by June 2003.




Demonstrating the benefits of existing research and knowledge may increase producer awareness and acceptance.  Five projects were designed to explore management changes that may improve productivity in central North Dakota.  Existing cow calf operators were sought to demonstrate usefulness of the research ideas.  Grant funds were also available to aid producers in cost sharing new use applications.


Beefline projects

1)  Logan County Demonstration Project: Determining Mineral Supplementation Needs via Grass Clipping Analysis

During the grazing season beef cows may be consuming forages deficient in certain nutrients.  To thwart deficiency symptoms, beef cow operators purchase and provide mineral and protein supplements.  Since a majority of manufacturers create only a few mineral supplements for most applications, some minerals may be overfed while other are underfed.  This is due to varying mineral composition of the forage that the beef cows are consuming.


Conducting forage analysis on pasture is meaningful only if the forage sample is representative of what the cows are consuming.  Unfortunately, sampling grass clippings from one species of forage or area of pasture does not reflect the actual grass selected by the cow.  Different techniques can be used to evaluate actual consumption.  Rumen evacuation is very time consuming and requires surgically altered cattle.  Hand sampling forages is dependant on the accuracy of the technician gathering the sample, but creates a relatively easy and quick method for nutritional evaluation.


Andy Gross, Logan County Extension Agent and Karl Hoppe, Area Extension Livestock Specialist, will collect forage samples once a month during the 2002 grazing season and three times during 2002-2003 winter feeding for cooperator Jack Dahl, Gackle, ND.  Sample collectors will need to observe what the cows are consuming so correct sampling can be accomplished.  In addition to forage samples, water samples will be collected for determining mineral contributions to cow diets. Using the analysis results, a mineral supplement will be designed after determining the cow’s nutrient requirements, cow weight, frame score, and body condition score.  


A specially-designed mineral supplement will be developed for the cooperator after the 2002 grazing season and the 2002-2003 winter feeding period.  The supplement will then be shared via a ranch tour and local county meeting.  A county news release will be developed to share the results of mineral analysis.  Additional information will be shared by regional beef meetings and regional beef reports in 2003.


The cooperator will reevaluate his mineral program and incorporate the new mineral mix into the ranch’s mineral program.  Cost of mineral sampling will be compared to mineral mix savings.  General health of the cow herd will also be considered.  A relative cost comparison will be prepared and used in marketing custom mineral mixes to other ranches in Logan County.  Adoption of the technique will be investigated by interviewing ranchers in Logan County.


2)  Eddy County Demonstration Project: Evaluating Water Quality for Cattle Use;
Do We Need Better Water?


Water is an essential component of a cow’s diet.  Commonly held views conclude water is adequate for cow use in Eddy County.  Eddy County has 18,000 cows (ND Ag Statistics, 2001) and has two major rivers, Sheyenne and James, traversing the county.  The topography of Eddy County leads to dugout ponds and wells used for cattle drinking water.  Also, spring well developments are used for livestock watering (Hoppe et. al., NDSU CREC Beef Report 1995 vol. 18:40). Water suitable for livestock drinking should meet certain mineral and organic guidelines (Livestock and Water AS-954).


Good quality water is needed for livestock.  Unfortunately, beef cattle producers seldom test water supplies for suitability.  To draw attention to better water management and discover potential problems in Eddy County water supplies, livestock water will be evaluated. 


Eddy County Extension Agent, Tim Becker and Area Extension Livestock Specialist Karl Hoppe will identify watering sites across the county to demonstrate the need to evaluate livestock drinking water.  Beef cattle producers with interest in testing water supplies were recruited in May 2002.  Water sites are being sampled during the summer of 2002.  Samples will be submitted to the North Dakota Department of Health for evaluation of mineral content and fecal coliforms. 


A local news release and tour may be provided to increase awareness of water issues for livestock.  Reports will be shared on a county wide basis during the fall of 2002 and regional meetings in January/February 2003.   Individual producers will be contacted for interpretation of water analysis information.


Beef cattle producers will increase their awareness of water quality for cattle and personal use.  Acceptance of rural watering systems may be increased.  Improved water may lead to less livestock health problems and improved productivity.  New water wells, a change to rural water and other water developments will identify the long term impact of poor water quality.  A survey of producers with water tested will provide an evaluation of the educational value of sampling water.


3)  Ransom County Demonstration Project: Co-products as an Alternative Creep Feed

The beef cattle inventory is 35,000 head in Ransom County (ND Ag Statistics, 2001).  The Sheyenne National Grasslands located in part of Ransom County, encourages a high density of cow calf production.  Cow-calf producers are interested in producing as much weaning weight as possible.  Alternative feeding methods will be considered for creep feeding calves prior to weaning.  In addition, North Dakota has become a large producer of co-products including wheat midds (Wheat midds – a useful feed for cattle AS-1175), corn gluten feed (Corn gluten feed for dairy cattle AS-1138), potato waste, beet pulp and other unique feeds (Alternative Feeds for Ruminants AS-1182).


Commercial creep feeds are well balanced and effective for producing additional weight at weaning.  However, due to the relatively lower price per ton of co-product feeds, producers are interested in using co-product feeds as creep feeds.  The Ransom County Demonstration Project: Co-products as an alternative creep feed will allow producers to evaluate alternative creep feeds for adding weight prior to weaning in select Ransom County cow calf herds.


The Ransom County Extension Agent, Randy Grueneich, and Karl Hoppe, Area Extension Livestock Specialist, will recruit two Ransom County cow calf producers to demonstrate the value of creep feeding calves with co-product feeds during the summer of 2002.  These cow calf producers engage in a demonstration trial involving weighing calves before and after application of creep feed diet treatments.  Creep feed treatments will compare either wheat midds, corn gluten feed, or other co-product, and commercial creep feeds, whole grain feeds (i.e. oats) or no creep feeds.  Actual creep feeds will depend on cooperators involved. Cattle will be weighed by university staff and participating cooperators.


Creep feeding treatments will be placed in July – Sept 2002.  Calves will be weighed prior to co-product feeding and at the end of feeding period (Sept – October 2002).  Results will be shared in the local newspaper column, county-wide producer mailing and county cow calf producer meeting.  Demonstration information will be shared during regional cow calf meetings and in regional beef reports.


Cow calf producers will observe the cost effectiveness of by-product feeding to calves prior to weaning.  When creep feeding decisions are considered, cow calf producers will contemplate co-product feeds due to the awareness that is generated with this demonstration.  Interviews will be conducted with demonstration herd owners.  The interview results will provide insight on producer willingness to continue or expand use of co-products in there production practices.


4)  Griggs County Demonstration Project: Better Management Using CHAPS 2000 Performance Record System

Cow herd improvement can be accomplished through better genetic management.  The Chaps 2000 (ND Beef Cattle Improvement Association) cow herd appraisal and performance software was developed to measure both genetic and reproductive performance of beef cows.  Producer acceptance of genetic evaluation is high.  However, collecting numerical information has met with producer reluctance.  Although information is often collected, inputting data and interpreting results is not accomplished.   In certain instances, cattle producers do not have access to weight scales due to economic conditions.


Since genetic and reproductive improvement is paramount to improving productivity in a cow herd, increasing producer use of Chaps 2000 is needed.  Griggs County has about 19,000 beef cattle (ND Ag Statistics, 2001) with few producer using Chaps 2000.  To demonstrate the value of Chaps 2000, cow producers will be sought that have not previously used Chaps. 


Since producers do not already have the Chaps 2000 program, NDSU Extension Staff, Griggs County Extension Agent John Swenson and Karl Hoppe, Area Extension Livestock Specialist, will recruit producers, outline needs of the Chaps 2000 evaluation tool, collect, and input data into the Chaps 2000 program.  Chaps resource staff located at the Dickinson Research Extension Center will do data input. The Cooperstown Veterinary Clinic will cooperate in weighing a proportion of calves.  Additional weights will be taken after backgrounding for further evaluation of cow herd productivity.


Eight producers were identified and asked to participate in March 2002.  Their 2002 cow herd calf crop will be evaluated with breeding information collected from 2001 and weaning information collected in Fall 2002.  Backgrounding weights will be collected December 2002 – January 2003.  Information will be shared with cow herd owners.  Compiled information will become a part of the 2002 Chaps performance report.  Area information will be shared during county and regional meeting.  News releases will provide further information on the demonstration efforts of using Chaps 2000. 


Producers should become dedicated users of the Chaps 2000 program.  Improved breeding and nutritional management will lead to more productive cow herds.  As producers continue to use the Chaps 2000 program, this will show their participation and improvement over time.  Additional producer participation will be encouraged and show acceptance to production record systems.


5)  Stutsman County Demonstration Project: Balancing Beef Cow Rations for Better Performance and Lower Cost

Cow calf producers routinely spend approximately $220 per head per year in winter feed expenses (ND Farm Business Management 2000 Report region 3 – South Central North Dakota, $221 per cow).  Reducing feed costs without reducing cattle performance should be beneficial.  Rations balanced for energy, protein, mineral and vitamins are the foundation of proper nutrition.  Cow calf producers in Stutsman County have sought ways to reduce feed expenses including co-product feeding and utilizing straws in cow diets.


Since using nontraditional feeding is gaining popularity, the possibility of improperly balanced rations fed to pregnant cows is increasing.  To demonstrate the value of balanced rations, select Stutsman County cow calf producers will be provided professional nutritional assistance in developing balanced rations for pregnant beef cows.  Ration cost will be considered to reduce feed expenses and help profitability.


The demonstration project will involve Tom Olson, Stutsman County Extension Agent, and Karl Hoppe, Area Extension Livestock Specialist.  Approximately 5-8 Stutsman County cow calf producers will be recruited to participate in balancing rations for their beef cow herds.  Cattle will be condition scored for body fat and feeds will be sampled and analyzed for nutritional content.  Rations will be developed and subsequent ration sampling and nutrient analysis will be conducted.  Cows will be body condition scored near calving to evaluate ration effectiveness.  A computer software program will be utilized in balancing rations.


Cooperating producers will be identified by November 2002.  Initial body condition scores will be recorded in November 2002.  Feeds will be sampled and analyzed during November 2002.  Rations will be balanced and incorporated into producers’ nutritional plans for their cow herd.  A comparison of producer’s rations before and after ration balancing will be sought.  News releases and county mailings will provide public awareness of the nutritional project.  Results will be provided during county and regional meetings.  The project should be completed by February 2003.


Producers will observe the value of nutritionally balanced rations.  By comparing the cost of rations and body condition score changes, cow herd owners will analyze the economic impact of balancing rations.  Evaluating nutritional profiles of feedstuffs will become an accepted yearly practice.  Better cow herd nutrition will be applied due to teaching involved in ration balancing.



These demonstrations will be used to show reduction in feeding expenses through less purchases, better feed utilization, better supplementation strategies, and increased productivity through genetic selection.  Using concepts and research readily available, production can increase with reduced expenses.


Affiliation of coauthors and non-CREC staff:  Andy Gross, Logan County Extension Agent; Tim Becker, Eddy County Extension Agent; Randy Grueneich, Ransom County Extension Agent; John Swenson, Griggs County Extension Agent;  and Tom Olson, Stutsman County Extension Agent.



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Dean and Director for Agricultural Affairs
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Experiment Station
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