University of Wyoming research station integrates crops and livestock researchWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Lingle – In 2002, the University of Wyoming’s (UW) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center was formed near Lingle. In 2006, it was officially named the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC), after an alumnus of the university and representative of Goshen County.
“We were given the opportunity to purchase the center because we sold two other centers,” comments Bret Hess, associate dean and director of UW Agricultural Experiment Stations.
At the time when the center was formed, the Archer Research Center was a dryland facility with sheep, and the Torrington center featured irrigated acres.
“Our sheep flock is now residing at the Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC),” he explains.
A strong predator presence at the Archer site caused high sheep losses, and the animals were relocated to the other station.
“The Archer and the Torrington stations were then combined, and this farm was purchased and put together,” adds former SAREC Farm Manager Bob Baumgartner.
Baumgartner recently retired from his post as farm manager after many years of service.
Baumgartner explains, “We have just over 300 irrigated acres, primarily sprinklers and some flood irrigation. We have enough water rights that all of the irrigated ground can be covered by three irrigation wells.”
Availability of water on the property was one of the main factors in UW’s decision to purchase the property where SAREC now resides.
“Water is gold when it comes to research and irrigated farmland,” he states.
The facility maintains three center pivots and a lateral-move sprinkler.
“We also have over 2,000 acres of rangeland, and we have over 500 dryland crop acres,” says Baumgartner.
In addition to farmland, SAREC also hosts livestock facilities, including a feedlot that can accommodate approximately 400 head of cattle. A number of cattle projects take place at the center, and researchers also maintain a base cowherd of approximately 30 head.
“The idea is that anything that is done with another group of cows will be compared back to the baseline to see if there was an improvement in a practice or if a change to a practice would be beneficial for producers to make,” Hess explains.
Data is constantly being collected for the base herd and will be used as a reference for current and future experiments.
“The premise of this particular center was to develop integrated crop and livestock systems,” adds Hess.
Baumgartner says, “A lot of our crop production, hay and corn, is shipped over to LREC to the feed the livestock there.”
Faculty members at the center include an animal scientist, an agronomist and an ag economist to oversee the integration of projects at the site.
“Most of our producers, regardless of what kind of agricultural commodity they produce, say there are only two things they want answers to – will a modification make money or save money? Therefore, we have an economist to evaluate everything we do at the center,” states Hess.
Faculty and students from the UW campus are also frequent visitors and researchers at SAREC, utilizing the crop acres, livestock facilities, GrowSafe systems and the wet lab that was constructed to perform data analysis on-site at the center.
“This site is only about two hours away from campus, so we have a lot of people who use this facility, especially in our plant sciences department and animal science department,” Hess says.
Hess and Baumgartner gave a brief overview of SAREC operations in September at the High Plains Nutrition and Management Roundtable.