By John Nollette and Jacki Musgrave
Like the rest of the state, we too felt the effects of cold temps and spring storms. Sub-zero temps in early March made for a challenging start to the March calving season. This, followed by major blizzards in March and April, took its toll on cow body condition. Compared to the average of the last 5 years, cows were 0.3 and heifers 0.2 BCS points lower. The cows looked rough coming out of this winter. Thankfully, through the hard work of the ranch crew, death losses were kept to a minimum through these chilling weather conditions. We are hoping that the stress on the calves through the spring won’t result in an increase in summer pneumonia cases.
Tasha King, a PhD graduate student working with Travis Mulliniks, moved to GSL in March for an early lactation supplementation study. March calving three-year-olds were individually fed either a traditional distillers grain cube containing either Rumensin or calcium propionate. This study was looking at the impact of supplementation on energy utilization and reproduction. She will be back next spring to repeat these treatments one more year.
The cold wet spring left us ready for warmer, drier weather to arrive. Cool season grasses appeared to flourish but it delayed forage growth on the warm season dominated upland range. Diets collected for the June Ranch Practicum were lower than average in crude protein (11.1 vs. 12.5%). Similarly, we saw lower crude protein values in June last year when moisture was abundant. Warmer weather in late June and early July may have helped our upland range quality. Hay quantity may be good but quality may be lower. Luckily, we have been able to start bailing in early July on some of our drier meadows. Combining cows in lower body condition with lower quality forage looks like we might be looking at decreased pregnancy rates this fall.
Joslyn Beard, another PhD student working with Mulliniks, returned this summer for her second of three years. She is working with May calving two-year-olds on energy energetics, utilizing heart rate loggers and GPS collars to estimate energy expenditure.
We are using insecticide tags again this year for fly control. David Boxler is comparing three different tags to evaluate their efficacy. He is also continuing to monitor our pesticide resistance levels.
Tara Harms will be back again this fall and winter. She is looking at the impacts of meadow grazing at moderate and high stocking rates pre- and post-frost. She also has another study looking at burning as a meadow management tool.
Rob Ziegler, a MS graduate student working with Travis Mulliniks, will be moving to GSL in September for a late gestation supplementation study. Rob is also analyzing long-term GSL cow size data to look at the optimal cow size for the Sandhills.
Overall, the hills are green and things look pretty good at GSL. Hopefully we get to enjoy a mild fall before winter sets in again.