Travis Mulliniks 


by Travis Mulliniks, Range Cattle Nutritionist

Greetings from the faculty, cowboys, staff, and students at and associated with Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory.

The last year has tested many producers. With increased rainfall and in some areas, decreased forage quality, pregnancy rates in Nebraska have been all across the board. Gudmundsen was not immune to these challenges. Fortunately, a warm, open winter allowed for increased grazing and decreased the cold stress we experienced last winter. Jacki Musgrave and John Nollette will update you on the cattle operations in this newsletter.

Due to the extensive, diverse nature of beef production systems, finding answers for producers from research can sometimes be slow, inconclusive, and costly. This is partially due to studies being based on pasture averages rather than individual animal. As part of the goal for GSL to become the Ranch Innovation Center, we purchased our first Super SmartFeed feeding system. This portable feeder allows for individual animal supplementation. Supplement amount per animal can be programmed so that multiple supplement strategies can be utilized in one pasture. Technology like the Super SmartFeed system will help us examine how to fine-tune supplementation strategies and decrease input costs.

As part of a larger initiative across UNL, we collected DNA samples to genotype every GSL cow and calf. This will allow for genomic-based selection matching genotypes to desired phenotypic outcomes in various environments and management systems. In addition, this will provide GSL with EPDs on all the cows and subsequent offspring moving forward.

We have been working on increasing the lab capabilities at GSL to accommodate our increasing number of graduate students. This will allow students to be able to do more lab work while at GSL and not have to travel back and forth to campus as much.

Scientific collaborations are a large part of successful research programs, and without collaboration, research areas become stagnant. GSL has a few new collaborative projects coming up this year. A new yearling steer project will be starting this winter with Jim MacDonald, Lincoln, and Mitch Stephenson, Scottsbluff. This project will look at two different overwinter rates of gain in two different systems (drylot or range). In May, once all steers are managed together, we will look at grazing behavior, average daily gain, overall performance, and economic efficiency from each rate of gain and system combination.

Jen Wood, a molecular and cellular reproductive physiologist in the Animal Science Department at UNL, will be starting a new project at GSL this summer.  Her research looks at stressors affecting cow fertility, particularly egg quality, which is crucial for embryo development and establishing a successful pregnancy. In the upcoming study, Jen’s lab will correlate an inflammation marker in the blood with potential reductions in AI and pregnancy rates. They will also see if supplementing can reverse inflammation and improve fertility. In addition, they will look at how the inflammatory factors can alter egg phenotype and contribute to poor AI rates.

This spring, we received a $299,999 USDA Critical Agricultural Research and Extension grant to evaluate the impact of milk production on cow-calf productivity, cow-calf grazing behavior, and profitability. This is a collaborative project with Mitch Stephenson, Samodha Fernando (UNL rumen microbiologist), and myself as the lead investigator.

Just a reminder the GSL Open House will be Wednesday, August 26. More information will be coming out this summer.