You are what you eat.
True for animals as well as people, a nutritious diet promotes a
ARS scientists at
laboratories throughout the United States are cooperating to improve the
Foragethe edible plant material from non-grain crops
that provide feed for animalscomprises about 60 percent of the diet for
U.S. livestock. Forage crops are a significant part of the nation's
agricultural economy, supporting the nation's multibillion dollar livestock
Rangeland, Pastures, and Forages National Program
research, scientists have discovered how to sustain and improve U.S. forage,
providing a sustainable, healthy, abundant food source for the nation's
Rangeland, pasture, and forages cover about 55 percent of all
U.S. land. Forage grows differently in different areas, so it's important for
farmers and ranchers to know which types and techniques work best for their
To Each, Its Own
In Beaver, W. Va., scientists at the
Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center raised
lambs on tall fescue and orchard grass grown on silvopastures where forage and
trees are grown together.
found that the moderate shade cast by oaks and conifers promoted distinct
herbage nutrient profiles, including higher protein levels. Silvopastures
increased grazing opportunities and may also extend the length of the growing
season. This information could help Appalachian farmers maximize the potential
of their pastures.
Plants like locoweed, lupine, and larkspur can be deadly to
grazing animals. What are the symptoms of poisoning? How can poisonous plants
be recognized and managed? How serious is the threat? At the
Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory in Logan, Utah,
scientists address these questions by investigating the toxins that cause
illness and death and developing tactics to protect animals from them. Their
research has helped establish management practices to reduce plant-related
Researchers in the
Forage-Animal Production Research Unit at Lexington,
Ky., are also investigating the effects of toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue
on grazing animals. Tall fescue, a popular forage choice in the eastern United
States, can cause toxicosis in cattle, which can harm reproductive and growth
performance and may even be fatal if the animals are subjected to stressful
situations, such as transport or extensive handling.
Recent research suggests that a 2-week, fescue-free diet
following removal from pasture can improve the stress tolerance of afflicted
cattle, reducing transport-stress mortality and morbidity rates and related
A Time for Everything
Forage availability is seasonal. Several ARS research projects
are examining how to improve feed options during seasons when forage
availability declines. Scientists with the
Forage and Range Research Laboratory at Logan are
investigating the benefits of taller forage kochia (KO-chuh), a winter-hardy
plant that provides protein to grazing cattle, sheep, deer, elk and antelope.
Eurasian specimens grow taller
than the kochia currently sold in the United States and could provide
nutritious, low-cost food during the snowy season.
With similar objectives, researchers at the
Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Okla.,
are investigating the possibility of growing perennial cool-season grasses in
the southern Great Plains to provide much-needed forage during spring and
autumn, when traditional warm- and cool-season grasses are in short supply.
What can we predict about the future of forage? Another El Reno
project may soon help livestock producers evaluate the quality of live forage
within a pasture. Scientists there are cooperating with two private firms to
develop, manufacture, and market an economic, hand-held optical remote sensor
to calculate and store data on forage's nutritional value. This device could
enable producers to more easily make informed decisions about the dietary needs
of their animals.
More to Come
These projects only hint at the variety and breadth of the ARS
Rangeland, Pasture and Forages National Program, which comprises over 50
projects in 30 laboratories in 24 states. Thanks to this research program, the
United States can count on a nutritious, varied, sustainable feed source for
its agricultural animals.
For more information about ARS's
Rangeland, Pastures, and Forages National Program,
Evert K. Byington.
All in the timing. New research on the
economic impact of
calving times can help ranchers make decisions about
breeding and forage use.
Engage a phage. Innovative methods to
collect and identify
Salmonella-specific bacteriophages could help
control the bacteria in swine waste lagoons.
Relaxed cattle management promotes calmer, healthier
Protein spells relief? A novel
antimicrobial protein could help protect cows against
Talking turkey. An extremely sensitive
new diagnostic test detects viruses associated with
poult enteritis complex, a potentially fatal turkey disease.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's
vaccination? Scientists investigate the possibility of protecting bison and
other animals from brucellosis by firing
vaccine-filled projectiles at them.
Ticked off: Two new tools help protect the
southern U.S. from disease-carrying
Emissions reducible: Supplementing poultry
and swine feed with
phytase enzymes could improve nutrition and reduce
potentially polluting phosphorus emissions.
Dynamic duo. Adding the catalyst Fe-TAML
to hydrogen peroxide may help neutralize hormones in wastewater, potentially
reducing pollution that harms fish and other
For developing modified live
vaccines to counter two economically significant
catfish diseases, ARS researchersCraig Shoemaker, Joyce Evans, and
Phillip Klesius of the Aquatic Animal Health Research
Unit in Auburn, Ala., received a
Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology. The Federal Laboratory
Consortium Award recognizes laboratory scientists who successfully bring
federally developed technology to the market. Earlier this year, this team
received an ARS Technology Transfer Award for the same research.
Biochemist Stanley Prusiner received the
2006 ARS Sterling B. Hendricks Mermorial Lectureship, which recognizes
scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the chemical science of
agriculture. The award includes a $2,000 honorarium, a medallion, and expenses
to attend the
American Chemical Society Fall Meeting in September
2006, where the lecture will be presented. Prusiner received the 1997 Nobel
Prize in Medicine for discovering and defining prions, the disease-causing
agents behind transmissible spongiform encephalopathies like scrapie and mad