Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Boot Camp to help beef producers improve herds, understand wildfires

Posted by | February 4, 2016
Cattle graze at the WSU Beef Center. (Photo by Jennifer Michal/WSU)
Cattle graze at the WSU Beef Center. (Photo by Jennifer Michal/WSU)

Science-based strategies to help Washington’s $5 billion beef industry will be presented at a Cattlemen’s Boot Camp April 15-16 at Kennewick’s Benton County Fairgrounds.

The biannual conference is hosted by WSU animal scientists and Extension researchers, in partnership with the American Angus Association.

The first evening will educate farmers about the 2015 wildfires, which continue to have lingering impacts months after being extinguished. Topics include post-fire ecology and pasture management, irrigation and feeding techniques.

Burned forage, emergency feeds

“Producers in burned areas are devastated,” said Frank Hendrix, a professor and beef expert in WSU Extension’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Program. “They’ve lost the grass in dryland pastures for at least two years. All their fences are gone. We can’t tell if the range grasses will recover until spring.”

Kate McCloskey, Spokane County 4-H coordinator, delivers farm feed and hay for fire-affected families in Okanogan County.
Kate McCloskey, Spokane County 4-H coordinator, delivers farm feed and hay for fire-affected families in Okanogan County. Cattle producers lost forage and feed in the 2015 wildfire. (Photo by Ann Fagerlie/WSU Extension).

Slated to speak at Boot Camp, Hendrix will share how producers can use irrigated pastures for higher production. As upland ranchers feel more pressure from fires and drought, Hendrix sees irrigated forage as a solution.

Since the fire, producers have had to rely on whatever feed they could find locally or have shipped in, said Don Llewellyn, an Extension livestock specialist. He will share tips for emergency and alternate feeds at the Boot Camp.

Producers need to understand the idiosyncrasies of feeds they’ve never used before, says Llewellyn. They also need to think about how to transition cattle onto unfamiliar feeds, especially if they add grain to forage.

“While we may not see wildfires like those of 2015 for some time, producers should work out an emergency feeding plan to help with management decisions,” advises Llewellyn. “We know that when disaster hits, conditions change by the moment.  Having a plan goes a long way in helping make sound decisions rapidly.”

Looking ahead, improving herds

Day two of the seminar will help producers improve their herds and put their businesses on stronger foundations. WSU and Extension researchers will share ideas on genetics, nutrition, beef quality and the economic outlook.

The seminar will end with a discussion of the latest Veterinary Feed Directive, which impacts how producers can use antibiotics. See a full agenda here.

With wildfire impacts remaining, and calving season and the spring greening of pastures ahead, this year’s Boot Camp is especially timely, says Mark Nelson, an Animal Sciences associate professor and longstanding organizer of the event.

“That’s why we’re doing this,” Nelson said. “Here are the problems, and here are the tools and techniques to improve profitability and reduce losses.”

Registration deadline for Cattlemen’s Boot Camp is March 1. Find registration materials and a schedule of events here.

Learn more about the WSU Department of Animal Sciences here.