The Agricultural Research and Extension Centers are a network of 11 research centers located throughout the state that emphasize the close working relationship between the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Inside the ARECs” highlights the work and accomplishments of these 11 centers and will appear in every Insights.
The Southwest Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center sits on 208 acres in Glade Spring, Virginia, and is an important partner in providing beef cattle research for producers.
In this region of the commonwealth, stocker cattle operators and cow-calf producers alike, gain management and marketing insight from programs provided by the AREC.
The center recently conducted a study to test whether or not a certain specialty starter ration would increase weight gain efficiency and be financially beneficial for cattle ranchers to utilize in their stocker calf back-grounding systems — beef production systems that maximize use of pasture and forages from the time calves are weaned until they are placed in a feedlot.
It’s just one initiative the faculty and staff perform as part of a strong program in management systems for beef cattle, including a heifer development program where animals meet the standards set forth by the Virginia Premium Assured Heifer program. Stocker cattle are back-grounded for 45 days to meet Virginia Quality Assured Program standards.
Similar to many ARECS, the research being conducted here is a collaborative effort that draws from various expertise throughout the college. Affiliated faculty who work in conjunction with the AREC include David Notter, Professor Emeritus of animal and poultry sciences and Professor Scott Greiner of the same department; Area Extension Specialist R. Allen Straw, small fruit and specialty crops; Dr. Dee Whittier, from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; Associate Professors John Fike and John Galbraith from the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences; and Professor Chuck Johnson from the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science.
Whittier and Greiner as well as Katie Knight, a veterinary medicine student, and Dr. John Currin, worked with Wright on this particular study.
“This study is a prime example of why the AREC system is beneficial to farmers in the commonwealth,” said Lee Wright, superintendent and senior research associate of the facility. “In this trial we found that although the specialty feed led to faster gains during the first two- week period post weaning, the basic commodity mix purchased by many producers in our area yielded better performance by the end of the test, and would potentially save producers a third of their total input costs.”
The study involved 132 steers of similar age and breed, provided by 10 area producers, which were comingled within test groups. Additional components of this test also looked at overall health of the steers per treatment group, and marketing analysis scenarios were developed based on local sale results.
“Utilizing local cattle for our research programs helps us to better engage local producers,” said Wright. “If we can show them how what we do helps to improve their bottom-line production costs and returns, while using their own cattle, it’s a win-win for our producers, and the AREC.”