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Whitman ranchers extol benefits from Extension, IANR


Not all University of Nebraska-Lincoln education occurs on campus.

When it comes to increasing profitability, efficiency and sustainability, a Whitman rancher looks to the university's research and extension education taught across Nebraska.

"We rely on research and information delivered from the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and through extension," said Sherry Vinton, who ranches near Whitman with her husband Chris. "Extension has helped us stay in business, be competitive and expand."

The Vintons long have participated in extension programs, ranging from the Ranch Practicum at the university's Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory to the Beef Home Study curriculum to various workshops.

"Each year provides new challenges related to weather, herd health and markets," Vinton said. "To remain profitable, a person has to constantly adjust. UNL has done a good job of providing us information to help make these decisions.

"Extension has made a difference in our lives."

One example--12 years ago the Vintons changed their mineral feeding program based on extension recommendations, and "that has saved us a lot of money," Vinton said.

They began mixing their own mineral supplements, and those savings, plus efficiencies and savings from many other extension recommendations, have allowed two of their adult children to come home and join the ranching operation, Vinton said.

Dennis Bauer, extension educator based in Ainsworth, said a change such as the Vintons made with mineral supplements can be significant for producers.

Extension shows that eliminating phosphorus in mineral supplementation programs when feeding two or more pounds of distillers grains or gluten feed daily can save $7 to $10 per head per year, Bauer said. A producer with a 500-cow herd could save between $3,500 and $5,000 annually.

For example, Bauer said two area ranchers just recently told him they had saved significant amounts of money feeding reduced mineral rates, while their herd pregnancy rates and weaning weights are equal to what they were before.

Extension also provides education on do-it-yourself mineral mix, which costs about $200 per ton, compared to $700 per ton purchased commercially, Bauer added.

The Vintons regularly follow IANR research and subsequent extension recommendations in feeding wet distillers grains. And extension education on rotational grazing, irrigation and fertilizer application has been "hugely helpful," Vinton said. "We can look at UNL data and see if an idea shows enough potential cost savings to try and implement it on our own ranch.

"With animal nutrition and feeding practices, a small savings can really add up," Vinton added. "UNL can offer great programs at a reasonable cost to producers with information that specifically applies to our conditions here in Nebraska."

The Sandhills calving system developed by a UNL extension veterinarian "is another common-sense application of research that improves our bottom line," Vinton said. The system means lower treatment costs, labor savings and increased survival and performance rates amounting to about $40 per head, she estimates.

"Modern production agriculture is changing so rapidly," Vinton said. "With the growing population, you need to allocate resources even more wisely. Within 10 years of college graduation, you need new information."

That, she said, is just one of many reasons university research and extension education are so important.

"We need applied research and need a format to deliver it," Vinton said, adding, "We--both the general public and agriculture--need extension now more than ever."

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