The driver pulling the trailer with rows of seating slowed and paused for a group of people crossing the parched yards at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle – an unspoken invite for a ride.
Betty Deeney of Hawk Springs waved the driver on. “They want to see the equipment,” she called to him, pointing to the men she was walking with and then, as a way of explanation, added, “Farmers.”
An estimated 150 attended the revamped SAREC field day Thursday, Aug. 23. The field day, switched to late afternoon, ended with a cream can dinner. The field day had three-minute research presentations but also trailer tours during which those attending could climb down and see and stay at whatever research plot they wanted. UW scientists awaited them.
“I like this,” said Deeney, who attended with her husband, Lindsey Arnold. “I think you have a chance to go on your own more, and we stayed longer in one place than another. In whatever area of interest you like, you have more time to spend and visit with people.”
Beth Burritt of Utah State University began activities showing how cattle can be trained to graze forage they not normally would.
That struck Robert Lewis, who lives near Lingle. He has rented his backgrounder feeder calf feedlot and lamented the pressures drought, loss of forage and high feed prices dealt producers.
High grain prices have couple with high forage prices. Cattle had to be sold, which will decrease prices but also decrease cattle numbers. Prices will eventually rebound, he believes, and perhaps in another year or two the costs will be more relative to cattle values.
“There are a lot of dynamics in the short-term,” said Lewis. “It’s going to be kind of sporting to see where the equilibrium is about whether people can get through the bottleneck. It’s going to require they use some unconventional things that maybe they hadn’t looked at before, such as alternative feedstuffs. It’s going to be a really challenging year for producers.”
Those attending saw scientists show weed research, Roundup-Ready alfalfa studies, shade avoidance in sugar beets, omega-3 supplementation in cattle, a project that examines organic, conventional and no-till operations coupled with livestock, forage trials and more.
SAREC operations director Jim Freeburn said he believes the field day was the best they’ve had. “It seemed more relaxed and people were more at ease,” he said.
Research posters were attached to a large truck and to sides of buildings, and there were tents under which people could escape from the late-afternoon sun and visit.
“There were many things for which people gave me positive feedback,” Freeburn said. “They liked the new tour format, the posters and the fastest three-minute presentations. Having the big tent and the opportunity to mingle and visit with UW faculty members and researchers in a nonstructured way seemed to be very well-received.”
Deeney said she liked seeing the research, especially pertaining to livestock, and said there is information she can put to use on their wheat, irrigated corn and cattle operation.
The field day was the first for Lewis, who said his schedule had always prevented him from attending.
“I think there is value seeing what research there is, the work going on here,” he said. “What is really good is not only was it agronomy and crop-growing aspects, but there was also an animal science side to it, particularly the beef feedlot experiments and the guest speaker talking about how animals decide what they are going to eat and that animals can be trained to eat different types of plants.”
Lewis added, “In a day and age when we are short on feedstuffs, the high cost of feeds, people have to really be creative on how they can get through the tough times and open the door to look at alternatives and unconventional things that hadn’t been considered before.”