By John Nollette and Jacki Musgrave
It was a busy fall and winter at GSL. We were fortunate to have enough break in the rain last summer to get our hay put up. Even though we had good quantity, the quality was low, averaging around 6.5% crude protein (CP). With a stockpile of hay left from 2018, we made the decision to sell 660 bales.
Upland range diets collected in June and July were lower than average in CP. However, by September we were similar to average and maintained higher than average levels into December (7.9% CP).
Pregnancy rates were highly variable across March- and May-calving herds. The last two years we have seen low pregnancy rates in heifers from both herds (72.5 and 81.4%, March and May, respectively). Two-year-olds’ pregnancy rates were lower in the May (60.5%) than March (93%) herds in 2018 and 2019. Pregnancy rates in mature March-calving cows were lower (85.4%) than May cows (95.6%). Calf weaning weights from mature cows improved over 2018 for both March (+17 lb) and May (+55 lb) herds. Our open yearling heifers were sold in September off grass and three and four-year old cows were re-bred for fall-calving. Re-bred cows averaged 85.4% pregnant and will be sold in June or July.
We started work on a new study that is part of the Nebraska Integrated Livestock Systems Initiative. It involved DNA sampling every animal at GSL, as well as other University herds. At weaning, all cows and calves had a DNA sample collected via ear punch and received an RFID tag. We should have EPD data back from the Simmental Association by late spring. We are excited to be able to tie genetic data back to our research.
Rob Zeigler, M.S. student working with Travis Mulliniks and Jim MacDonald, moved to GSL in September. He has been a great help with several projects, and his focus has been working with the SuperSmart feeder, mentioned in the introduction. Rob has been looking at ways to decrease the amount of time it takes to acclimate cattle to the feeder as well as validating the amount of feed delivered to the animal.
Tasha King, Ph.D. student with Travis Mulliniks and Jim MacDonald, returned this spring to complete the second year of her research looking at the impact of supplementation on energy utilization and reproduction. Tasha plans to complete her degree sometime this summer.
Selby Boerman joined the ranch crew for an internship in January. Selby came to gain experience outside of her home area of northern California. Since her arrival, she has committed to pursue a M.S. degree with Travis Mulliniks and Mitch Stephenson. She will begin work on that at the completion of her internship this summer.
We had a slow start to our calving season. Along with lower pregnancy rates in our heifers, calving distribution was also spread out. Mild temperatures in March have us curious about how this will affect spring forage production. Potential for higher than average precipitation again this year may allow for good forage production but make it a challenge to get hay put up. These are all things you all are considering as we look forward to the coming year. Hopefully we can avoid any late spring storms and start out our 2020 grazing season on a positive note.