Evaluation of Technologies to Improve the Competitiveness of the Stocker Cattle Enterprise in New York. Effect of Grazing High-Tannin Legumes in Conjunction with Copper Oxide Wire Particles (COWP) ...

Worksite Location
St. Lawrence County
Faculty Sponsor
Dr. Mike Baker; Dr. Michael L. Thonney
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Dr. Tatiana Stanton
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Betsy Hodge; Ron Kuck
Stipend Amount
$4,000
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Stocker cattle are weaned calves placed on pasture in the spring and sold at the end of the grazing season. The intern will work on a project evaluating the effect of growth promoting implants on animal and economic performance of stocker cattle. He/she will also work with faculty member to monitor internal parasite level and use of anthelmintics to control them. A new technology offered by the Colorado State University Diagnostic lab which identifies species of internal parasites using DNA extraction will be employed. The student will also be involved with the daily management of stocker cattle, pasture management and health practices. There are an estimated 1 - 3 million acres of idled or underutilized farmland in NY, presenting an excellent opportunity for entry into the beef business. This project will enable the student to better understand this opportunity and experience the science necessary to succeed along with learning how Cooperative Extension works with producers to conduct on farm research and extend the results of research to producers.

Pasture based kidding and lambing help to reduce feeding costs when nutrient management needs are the greatest. However, a major limitation to raising goat kids and lambs on pasture is the control of internal parasites. This is true not only for organic livestock enterprises but also for conventional enterprises because of the increasing incidence of dewormer resistance on goat and sheep farms. This project investigates the effectiveness of new approaches to solve this serious challenge to sheep and goat farming. In response to this challenge, the Cornell Sheep & Goat Program in cooperation with CCE of St. Lawrence County has been studying promising new methods of worm control that comply with organic standards. These methods include the 1) adoption of FAMACHA monitoring systems to selectively deworm animals and 2) dosing with copper oxide wire particles and grazing forages high in tannins to reduce internal parasite populations. Two grazing trials are planned in 2015 to compare parasite loads in lambs and kids rotationally grazed on Birdsfoot Trefoil pastures planted in 2014 to parasite infections in lambs and kids grazed on conventional pastures. These trials also incorporate the use of FAMACHA monitoring and COWP dosing. Through these grazing trials and associated field days and fact sheets, the student will experience firsthand how research and extension work in livestock parasite management are conducted. The student will get hands-on knowledge of the parasite and grazing management problems faced daily by both pasture based and organic livestock farmers.

Roles and Responsibilities

The student will be based in St Lawrence County but will work with staff at additional farms in other northern New York counties. CCE St. Lawrence County manages its own Extension Learning Farm, a 300-acre sheep and beef grazing facility. The ELF has ongoing crop, pasture, livestock and maple research and demonstration projects.

The student will be involved in:
- selecting cattle based on predicted mature size and allocating them to treatment
- assisting in weighing cattle and calculating average daily gain to be used in comparing the effect of treatment
- collection of fecal samples and submission for analysis
- moving cattle in a rotational grazing system
- evaluating cattle health
- evaluating pasture
- collecting data on sheep and goats (weighing and FAMACHA scoring animals, collecting fecal samples, recording grazing patterns)
- collecting measurements of pasture productivity - monitoring pasture and weed species, measuring productivity of the Birdsfoot Trefoil grazing paddocks compared to control paddocks of conventional pasture mixes
- moving sheep in a rotational grazing system
- monitoring livestock health and assisting with daily care and management
- planning, promoting and assisting with field days and other farmer education events
- writing farmer fact sheets

In addition the student will have an opportunity to shadow professionals in the region and will be assigned independent projects as well as working primarily on team efforts.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

A strong interest in production agriculture is essential. All activities expected of the student can be taught during the project. However, coursework and/or practical experience in animal production, soil science, and animal nutrition are preferred. The student will need a valid New York State Driver's License and will be responsible for her/his own housing (local staff can assist them with finding housing). The intern should be able to endure rigorous physical labor (catching animals, lifting feed/seed bags) under adverse weather conditions encountered in the field (such as data collection on hot or rainy days).

Benefits and Skills

- How to conduct on farm research-obtaining a balance of good experimental design and control with the realities of working with a livestock farmer whose primary objective is profitability of the enterprise
- How to handle beef cattle in a low stress mann