Herefords to utilize SAREC GrowSafe System
Lingle – The UW James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) annual tour this year featured both dryland and irrigated crops tours, as well as livestock information on the GrowSafe feeding systems and an upcoming bull test at the facility.
Last summer a Wyoming Hereford breeder approached Wyoming Business Council Livestock and Forage Program Manager Scott Keith with the possibility of hosting a feed efficiency test for Hereford bulls at SAREC. The Center’s research-based approach and the university’s willingness to work with both private and commercial industry resulted in it being the host site for the test.
“With the GrowSafe system we know exactly how much each animal eats, what time of day he eats and how many times per day he is in the feeder. Each animal has an RFID tag the feeder reads every time he sticks his head through the stanchion,” explains UW Extension Beef Specialist Steve Paisley. “There is a wealth of data we are able to gather, and feed efficiency, and more specifically Relative Feed Intake (RFI), are two examples. A negative RFI animal is a more desirable and efficient animal. A positive RFI animal eats more than he should based on his weight gain and size. You see a lot of GrowSafe systems used on bull tests, and that’s exactly what this system was designed to do.”
“Feed efficiency has been the buzzword of the seedstock industry for quite a while now. With the invention and utilization of the GrowSafe System, it’s become a lot easier and more efficient to measure that trait,” adds Keith.
“Through the Wyoming Hereford Association we formed a committee of four breeders with myself as the facilitator. A protocol was developed, rations were designed and dates chosen for the test,” says Keith.
Five pens at SAREC will be used for the test. Each pen will house eight bulls. “Eight head is both a minimum and maximum number based on utilization of the GrowSafe feed cells. That number of head has been identified as best for both the lot size and for a single GrowSafe cell,” notes Keith.
In this first year participants are required to be members of the Wyoming Hereford Association. Each member was given the opportunity to nominate how many head they wanted to bring, based on the idea that one full pen is eight head. Six breeders from across Wyoming will bring 40 bulls for the first test.
“Some are coming from the northern part, some from over on the western side and others are from closer to SAREC,” says Keith.
Cattle will arrive Nov. 8 with initial weights taken Nov. 10. Following the incoming weigh-up, cattle will spend the first 20 days adjusting to the GrowSafe feeders and the lot without any data collection.
“You should see the dance that goes into trying to teach a yearling horned Hereford bull how to get his head in the feeder. You have to raise and lower the horizontal bars and widen the vertical bars until they get used to it. Then you have to narrow everything up or two will get in there at once and choke,” says Paisley.
Following the adjustment period the bulls will go on a 70-day test with 50 days of data collected.
“It is suggested that 50 days of actual good data is needed out of a 70-day feeding period to get quality results. In order for a day to count as a test day, a minimum of 97 percent of the feed that was dumped in the GrowSafe feed hopper must be accounted for among the animals in the pen. If it doesn’t reach 97 percent, that day doesn’t count,” explains Paisley.
“When you think about a bull test, you typically think about sales because there is always the marketing side to it as well. The participating Hereford breeders were interested in having a sale, but most Hereford bulls don’t sell until they’re long yearlings going into the fall of their second year, so there were some logistics to work out. There will only be 40 head, so the numbers won’t be there for a major consignment auction. Not every bull on test will be offered for sale either – some will be taken home for personal use or put in the breeder’s own production sale.
“What we decided to do was hold an Internet auction. It will be like a cattle eBay. There’s a company we found that does purebred cattle sales. What it does is provide the opportunity through the technology of the Internet to identify cattle and include all pedigree, Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs), photos and any other information you want on a lot. Then you set an opening and closing bidding date. It gives you the ability to set a bottom price, track who’s bidding and which buyers are interested,” explains Keith.
He adds that it’s a different marketing concept but the nice part is the buyer doesn’t have to be on-site. With the sale slated for approximately 30 days after the close of the test, finding some of the bulls could prove difficult.
“Some bulls will stay at SAREC and others will return home. Using the Internet will be interesting and new, not only for the sale itself but also with the promotion and involvement of the Hereford Association,” notes Keith.
Throughout the course of the test cattle will be weighed at least once every two weeks. Those dates will be made available to the public, who are invited to see how the program works and look at the cattle at those times. Producers are also welcome to call or stop by SAREC at any time during the test to see the GrowSafe feeding system or the bulls on test.
“This will be the first organized commercial feeding program at SAREC. I think other associations, groups and individuals will become more interested and involved after this initial pilot project is complete,” comments Keith.