The purpose of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Beef Cattle Nutrition Program in Amarillo is to provide reliable, relevant, and unbiased information to clientele interested in beef cattle production in the Texas High Plains region. Clientele are primarily beef producers, but may also include allied industry personnel, commodity groups, regulatory agencies, and interested citizens. The program is designed to mimic beef production systems in the Texas High Plains which are primarily post-weaning systems and encompass newly received calves, stocker operations, and finishing systems. These production systems are often intensive and are thus required to control environmental impacts of production. Additionally, the High Plains Region has limited rainfall and depleting underground water supply. The cumulative impacts of intensive cattle feeding on air quality, water quality, and water use is of public concern. Therefore, our mission at Texas A&M AgriLife Research at Amarillo is to develop nutritional and management strategies to improve production efficiencies and animal health while reducing nutrient losses to the environment, conserving natural resources, and improving the quality of beef delivered to the consumer. Research objectives must fit within the context of our mission and are written for specific benefits that are achievable, quantifiable, and relevant to the clientele served by the program.
Research is primarily related to improving feeding efficiency, forage utilization, nutrient management, and animal health. Our facilities and resources allow for research related to animal health, stocker cattle in native range and annual forage systems, growing and finishing systems, and nutrient utilization. Beef finishing systems are a major focus of the program because one-third of US beef cattle are finished within 150 mile radius of Amarillo. Use of distiller’s grains in finishing systems is a major focus of the program because of the dramatic shift in corn use from ethanol production. Current local rations are steam flaked corn based that contain 12-14% crude protein and 0.25-0.35% phosphorus with nominal distillers grains inclusion. Expected regional ethanol production might allow for an average of ~15% inclusion of distiller’s grains by 2010. Increased corn prices may attract the use of other alternative feeds historically not fed in the region. Inclusion of distiller’s grains at 20% of diet dry matter might be expected to increase the crude protein content to 16% and phosphorus content to 0.45%. Essentially all of the additional nitrogen and phosphorus would be expected to be excreted which would increase ammonia losses and increase the land base required to utilize the manure. Therefore, the program works closely with environmental engineers to reduce nutrient losses. Animal health is another focus of the program because animal mortality in feedyards tends to be increasing. Morbidity and mortality of newly received calves is a major source of animal and economic losses due to health related problems. The program also has an active stocker research component because approximately 1.0-1.5 million head of stocker cattle graze winter and summer annual forages and native range in the Texas Panhandle region. The program has an interest in utilizing forages that are efficient in their water use because the Ogallala aquifer may deplete in 50 years if current water use persists.
Dr. MacDonald is the project leader for the beef cattle nutrition program. Major responsibilities include planning, funding, conducting, and publishing research in ruminant nutrition and production systems involving beef cattle feedlots and stocker cattle. The project leader supervises research personnel associated with an experimental feedlot, research farm, and associated laboratories and oversees the management of a ruminant nutrition laboratory, metabolism laboratory, experimental feedlot, and experimental farm. Additionally, the project leader participates as a team member in animal nutrition and health with other faculty affiliated with the Consortium for Cattle Feeding and Environmental Sciences, and the Cooperative Research, Education, and Extension Team.
|Distiller’s Grains Initiative
|Sweet Bran Reports