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Animal Science Road Trip brings ag insights to area

A group of 30 people gleaned valuable insights from five Southwest Oklahoma cattle producers this week while on an "Animal Science Road Trip" offered by the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Cooperative Extension Service.

The tour was the brainchild of Clint Rusk, head of OSU's animal science department.

"I've always been a believer that a tour is a very good thing to do. I think it's an awfully important way for us from the university to stay connected with producers. And I think it's a great way for other folks in the state to get to see and learn from producers who have been successful, and learn ideas.

"In addition, just to get together and talk, whether it's in the vehicle on the way to a stop or after they get to a stop, just like what's happening here," Rusk said.

In former years, the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association held ranch tours similar to this. Last year, when the association went instead to Mexico, Rusk challenged the extension service to develop a new tour.

Some producers made the tour, and Rusk said ideas that were presented could help them solve problems or save money and labor. For example, Kenneth Holloway of Coyote Hills Ranch, Chattanooga, told of how he noticed symptoms of what he thought to be scours in his calves. It took a while to figure out that they were actually suffering a copper-selenium deficiency. For a while he had them on supplements.

After digging further into the cause, he found out that when the calves went to drink out of the pond, their hooves were stirring up dust from the red clay soil. Some of it got into their water, and the iron oxide in the clay was what was actually causing the copper-selenium deficiency.

Holloway solved the problem by pouring what was essentially a boat dock for the cattle to use and surrounding all of the pond except for the walkway with an electrified fence. That way, they had to use the concrete walkway to get water.

Another time, he discovered a friend he didn't know he had. The first indication was a lack of flies. The second was that all the cow patties looked as if birds had been pecking through them. He called the area livestock specialist, Marty New, and was instructed to email a photo of the cow patties.

Soon, OSU sent out a team of entomologists to look into it. When they turned the patties over, they found a pencil-sized opening in the bottom. What they discovered was a type of dung beetle that eats fly larvae.

Holloway had many other creative solutions to offer, such as putting one mule in with his herd to set up a social order and keep the cattle from bunching up, or marking his territory with vinegar to keep skunks away. His labor-saving devices include fountains with floating blue balls that tell him when a pasture is getting low on water without having to get out of his truck, hot-wired cattle guards and a corral system for easy loadout.

Established in 1972, Coyote Hills Ranch has grown to 1,350 acres, 600 of it cultivated to provide a wheat pasture in winter. During the drought of 2010-2014, Holloway had to reduce his herd to 115 animals, but it has since rebounded to nearly 200.

Joining Holloway in welcoming guests were his wife, Sue Ann; daughters Shari and Shana; his ranch foreman of 35-plus years, Clendon Bailey, and Clendon's wife, Kathy, who serves as office manager of American Cattle Services. The latter is an integral part of the operation; it's a firm that manages cattle sales for its customers.

The final stop was Collins Cattle, a centennial ranch outside of Frederick that has been in the same family since 1906. C.A. Collins introduced his wife, Judy; his son and daughter-in-law, Colby and Shellie Collins, along with their three young daughters, and C.A. and Judy's daughter, Christy Collins, who used to work for both the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association in Oklahoma City and Express Ranches of Yukon but has escaped big-city traffic by returning to the peace and quiet of Tillman County.

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