- Author: Megan G Osbourn
On Wednesday, October 8th, over 125 high school students from FFA and 4-H programs in Butte, Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties will gather in Browns Valley for the 1st Annual Beef & Range Field Day. This event, hosted by the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center (SFREC) will provide students with hands-on, practical experience with livestock production and natural resource management.
The future of agriculture and the way in which society views food production centers on youth knowledge and understanding. 4-H and FFA are excellent educational platforms for youth who are interested in raising livestock. SFREC staff and volunteers are excited to complement this training by connecting students with the concerns and issues commonly dealt with on working ranches.
- Author: Maddison Easley
- Contributor: Dustin Flavell
Rangeland specialist Jim Clawson first initiated the forage production data collection at UC SFREC in 1979. Past Director Mike Connor expanded the process with monthly (rather than seasonal) sampling of the usable forage in a particular area. Three plots were originally set aside to sample, but following multiple trials one specific plot was chosen. The same 1-acre grazed plot has been used for the past 35 years, as it is located at a median elevation with moderate canopy cover and a fairly representative soil of the entire ranch.
This year's forage production data was rather interesting. Late fall rains followed by freezing temperatures during germination, coupled with the severe winter drought, created dismal forage growth at the beginning of the yearly cycle (typically starting in December). However, the heavy rainfall experienced at the end of January and in the following months proved sufficient enough to produce nearly 80% of average forage production. As the person who has taken responsibility for keeping track of the forage production measurements and compilation, UC SFREC Superintendent Dustin Flavell has noticed an interesting trend; the total amount of precipitation is not always strictly correlated with the total pounds of forage produced per acre. “The right amount [of rainfall] at the right time and frequency will result in the most growth,” said Flavell.
Producers may find it useful to monitor forage production and peak standing crop on their own ranches. While there are varying definitions of peak standing crop, at UC SFREC it is measured when a majority of the grasses begin to cure but do not reach full maturity (seeds ready for dispersal). Peak standing crop typically occurs early to mid May. Several publications are available from the research conducted on forage production and residual dry matter that go into more depth about the importance of monitoring grass growth. One particular publication offers a simple 6-step method for determining forage in pounds per acre.
With a new growing season just around the corner, be on the lookout for additional posts regarding forage production at UC SFREC.
Here are some additional links for more information about this topic:
- Contributor: Ben Granholm
Initiated by Jerry Tecklin and Dr. Steve Beissinger in 2002, the Black Rail Project monitors the population dynamics and movements of two very secretive wetland birds, the Black Rail and the Virginia Rail. Over the past decade, researchers have examined a wide range of questions regarding these difficult-to-study birds including genetics, dispersal of young, West Nile Virus, territoriality, wetland type and vegetation preferences, and diet. Now in its thirteenth year, Nathan Van Schmidt is researching how the rails cope with drought, seasonal hydrology regimes, and the "rescue effect."
Check out the video for details!
- Author: Ben Granholm
Nearly 60 individuals gathered at SFREC for the 6th Annual Lower Yuba River Accord Symposium on July 15th to dive into the history, management and future of the Lower Yuba River. Attendees listened to presentations and asked questions of those involved in the river's preservation.
Speaking on the goals of the River Management Team and the current Monitoring and Evaluation Program, Tom Johnson of the Yuba County Water Agency discussed efforts to develop optimum flow schedules, record temperature performance and ensure the smooth implementation of Yuba Accord operations.
Looking at the year-round temperatures of the Yuba River, Casey Campos and Duane Massa with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, talked of what these temperatures mean for the spawning and livelihood of fish inhabiting the river, particularly the habitats of the Chinook salmon. Campos explained that the Yuba River is among the coldest in the Central Valley.
Symposium coordinators, Gary Reedy of the South Yuba River Citizen League spoke on the need for habitat enhancement, giving a summary of previous actions, while Beth Campbell of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) discussed enhancement initiatives implemented by FWS.
The symposium concluded with lunch at the Yuba River Education Center, followed by a float down the beautiful Yuba River.
- Author: Megan G Osbourn
Adaptation to changing weather and economic conditions is fundamental to farm and ranch survival but this year's drought is pushing variable adaptation strategies to their limit. The international community is closely watching how this dire situation is progressing in California and on June 19th the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) visited the Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center (SFREC) to document how ranchers are adapting to these extreme events and the implications these events have on agriculture and ultimately food production worldwide. Filming involved capturing interviews of three ranchers to explore their perspectives as well as a tour of SFREC to examine potential adaptation strategies to drought.
Joe Fischer, cattle rancher and President of the Placer County Farm Bureau, told CBC the economic impacts and emotional toll of the drought on ranching families have forced ranchers to rethink their management strategies and find innovative ways to manage the land. “Ranchers tend to be profitable if the land is productive,” Fischer said. “We have to look ahead five to ten years or more and try to be as conservative as possible with our stocking rates. Under these conditions, we have a much smaller margin for error so we have to be more precise than ever with our management strategies.”
SFREC Director Jeremy James and Livestock and Natural resource Advisor Glenn Nader used SFERC as an opportunity to demonstrate how intensive grazing management, agricultural by-products and culling strategies could be deployed to mitigate some of the impacts of drought. Many producers with limited feed sources are utilizing agricultural by-products that are available in their area in order to sustain the nutritional requirements of their livestock. Nader, pointed out that almond hulls are high in energy and have limited protein, which allows cows to more efficiently digest hay and can limit the quantity of hay they need to consume. Nader warned that the almond hulls fed must contain a low level of almond shell, in order to avoid problems with rumen digestibility. Rice straw and rice bran are more local agricultural by-products that, under the right conditions, have been utilized as dietary supplements for cattle.
To view the proceedings from the January 29th SFREC Drought Workshop, click here.