SAREC continuing studies on sustainable crops


GOSHEN COUNTY – A lot is going on at the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) southwest of Lingle. SAREC Director Steve Paisley said the center is actively researching a local crop rotation study to determine which crops could be used in the Goshen County area. 

SAREC is the laboratory and research arm of Laramie’s University of Wyoming agriculture program. The staff at SAREC are currently researching forage production and conducting a cover crop investigation. The team is assessing the viability of Sunn hemp as a cover crop.

According to Paisley, Sunn hemp is an annual cover crop looking like alfalfa but is more similar to a legume. The plant study began three years ago under the direction of the Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Cropping Systems, Dr. Carrie Eberle.

SAREC staff will harvest and bale the Sunn hemp just as they would with alfalfa. After baling, they will then feed the Sunn hemp to their calves to conduct a feeding study and determine the viability of Sunn hemp as a source of energy and protein for the cattle.

The program employs a technologically advanced system to keep track of the progress of the study. The “GrowSafe System” utilizes an electronic monitoring and dispensing system to feed cattle and track their eating habits.

There are currently 75 cows at the site, which will be used to determine the Sunn hemp’s palatability, energy, and protein value. The herd has electronic ear tags that tell the “GrowSafe System” which cow is eating, how much they are eating and when they are eating.

Paisley explained there are typically three main ingredients in feed, corn, silage and alfalfa. The cattle will be fed different feed arrangements utilizing corn, silage, alfalfa, and Sunn hemp to determine how the cows can palate the various feeds. 

These crop rotation studies typically last a minimum of five years and benefit the local farm and ranch producer.
Paisley told The Telegram a regular rotation of crops begins with corn, then goes to sugar beets. With the closing of Torrington’s sugar beet processing facility, many area farmers and ranchers look to other crops to use in place of sugar beets.

SAREC is testing the feasibility of teff grass, sorghum Sudan hay and cane hay. This year, SAREC plans to plant rye or triticale after chopping their silage. The rye or triticale hay will keep the ground from blowing and serve as an alternative to wheat and rye. 

Paisley said there will be a learning curve for this study as this type of forage is non-traditional and they will have to see what it takes to get the crops to grow. 

In addition to the crop and forage study, SAREC staff will be utilizing the resident beef herd to learn more about the blue tongue virus.

Issues with blue tongue came to light several years ago but continue to be an issue for area farmers and ranchers. According to Paisley, blue tongue disease is more of a problem in sheep and is very prevalent in deer. The virus has mile reactions in beef cattle but can cause abortions in sheep. 

According to Paisley, many United States producers began running into the issue several years ago when the United States was exporting seed-stock cattle to Russia. The United States is forbidden from exporting cattle positive for the blue tongue virus. 

SAREC used their cattle to study other insect-borne diseases and always monitored those cattle as a result. SAREC uses those same cattle to learn more about the blue tongue virus and how to respond to the resulting disease.

Those interested in SAREC’s crop studies can view their field reports at http://www.uwyo.edu/uwexpstn/publications/.

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