Wyoming Beef Council reviews funded programs, evaluates new projectsWritten by Christy Martinez
Douglas – On Aug. 18 the Wyoming Beef Council (WBC) met in Douglas to elect a new chairman and vice-chairman as well as to evaluate funded programs and consider new programs for funding.
Commercial cattle producer Judy West of Chugwater was elected to follow Spencer Ellis of Lovell as the WBC Chairman, while dairy producer Adam George of Cody will serve as Vice Chairman. WBC Executive Director Ann Wittmann was reappointed at secretary/treasurer for the Council.
Among the Fiscal Year 2011 program evaluations was a report from Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom (WAIC) Executive Director Jessie Berry, who thanked WBC for its continued support in providing educational materials, as well as funds to reach their programming goals.
“At our ag expos we handed out a lot of beef-related materials this year, and we had a chance to really interact with students,” Berry told the Council. “One main ag expo presentation is about grazing cattle.”
She added that at the WAIC State Fair booth the organization had carts set up with beef, sheep, corn and wheat, and asked kids to match them with retail products.
“Kids have no idea that glue, lotion and gum come from beef, and we had kids that didn’t even know that ice cream exists because of a cow,” said Berry. “We had some kids who literally had no clue, so it was a fun experience to let them know what commodities fill a shopping cart.”
Regarding the WAIC Country to Classroom publication, Berry said it’s great for reaching both teachers and students, and is a good tool for teachers to utilize in their classrooms.
“We had 25,000 printed, and have sent out 23,000, and as of today I have 20 left,” said Berry, noting that WAIC will have a new one in September.
“We want to start using Country to Classroom in conjunction with our bookmark contest, because it fits the same age group,” she noted. “We want two pages to focus on the categories of the bookmark contest, so instead of random categories in the contest they’ll be given a guiding factor, which they can internalize and then express what they’ve learned.”
Speaking of the bookmark contest that was completed last spring, Berry said WAIC really saw an increase in activity.
“We had 863 entries received. In 2010 there were 13 counties and 46 teachers involved, and in 2011 we had a jump to 20 counties and 85 teachers participating, so we’re excited with that participation, and the overall promotion and growth,” stated Berry.
Berry informed the WBC that the Rendezvous has been renamed the Wyoming Ag and Natural Resource Science Institute.
“I was so excited about our Institute this year,” she said. “It was the first time I’d put something of that nature together, and at first I was nervous as to what to teach the teachers, but the Hulett community was wonderful and a great resource in teaching the teachers what to take back and implement in their classroom.”
Overall, WAIC is seeking to put together technology and critical thinking to develop 21st Century skills in students, and Berry said that will be a main goal of their new curriculum, which she will put together with new WAIC Education Director Jennifer Neal of Sundance.
“Our byline with the curriculum is not telling them what to think, but giving them the tools for how to think,” said Berry. “We want to marry the 21st Century skills with the ag industry, and hopefully create a marketable and professional project for teachers to use in their classroom.”
In addition to the WAIC update, UW Extension Livestock Specialist Scott Lake updated the WBC on a long-term multi-faceted study looking at the value of AI and genetic EPDs versus actual EPDs versus actual performance.
“We’ve got all these calves we’re tracking through the system, and we’ll ultrasound as many as we can,” he said, noting that the first year’s calves were just born last spring. “This is turning out to be a big project, as far as tracking the calves and where they go and when, and it’s getting big over several states.”
He said the first bunch of calves were sold in mid-August, and he wasn’t yet sure where they were headed.
“The majority of the ultrasounds will be this fall and winter, so hopefully next year we’ll have more data,” said Lake. “It’s estimated to be a $2 million project with all the genetic analysis and the Pfizer chip, so they’re putting a lot of money toward it.”
Lake said the project began with the value of AI.
“All the studies so far were based upon day of age or weight, and there’s more to it than that,” he stated. “When we started, Pfizer Genetics came to us with the opportunity to take the 50K chip samples, which we can also compare with our data.”
According to Pfizer, the 50K chip is new technology containing 50,000 SNP markers on a single “chip” that simultaneously determines genotypes related to animal performance. A SNP, or single nucleotide polymorphism, is a place on a chromosome “marked” by a difference in the genetic code. The marker can be associated with specific genes located near it, and genes with significant influence on individual traits are identified by markers and used to predict an animal’s breeding values.
“With 50,000 markers, we can cover enough genes to get a good estimate of that animal’s genetic merit,” says Pfizer.
“We want to sort out the true value of AI and how it can support your herd,” said Lake, adding that the research also asks if the commercial calf producer has any use for the 50K chips. “We’re asking how accurate they are, and how different they are versus a much simpler and more cost-effective tool, such as ultrasound.”
In addition to the update on the research that WBC is already helping to fund, Lake presented a funding request for the WYO Beef Short Course, which he said he and UW Extension Beef Specialist Steve Paisley are interested in revamping.
“It was a very good course, and we plan to offer it again in January,” said Lake. “We’ll revamp it a little from how the course was historically run, but at the same time keep it similar, because it was very good.”
Paisley added that the idea is to develop a course that would place more emphasis on a feedlot steer going from pen to plate, or one that would focus on the front end of production, like how to use AI and look at management early on in a calf’s life.
“We’d like to also develop a course on either end,” he said.
“We’re trying to get more of a beef extension program going in UW, so we’re thinking about having three or four courses throughout the year,” said Lake. “Last year we had an AI clinic in Riverton, and we’ll probably do another one this year.”
However, for now the funding request is just for the short course, and the Council voted to contribute up to $3,500 to the project.