BSC ag students put concepts into practice at Harner Farm
By Annette Tait
The best way to connect abstract concepts to reality is to put them into practice. That’s what Charlotte “Chuckie” Heim, Bismarck State College associate professor of agriculture, technology, & natural resources, was helping her students do last week at Harner Farm in Oliver County.
“It’s a way that you can bring some of these concepts to life,” Heim said. “BSC has a lot to offer that way.”
Heim brought her nutrition lab students to visit LeAnn Harner, who runs a small dairy goat operation. Heim and Harner met at a producers meeting, got to talking, and one thing led to another.
“LeAnn has DHIA [Dairy Herd Improvement Association] records on her dairy goats. She’s the perfect person to have,” Heim said. “We can look at the books and say ‘this is the average milk fat,’ and ‘what do we need to do to get that milk fat?’ We can actually take some book knowledge and apply it.”
DHIA records are comparable to expected progeny differences (EPDs) used by the cattle industry to predict traits in offspring based on data collected on the parents. Dairy goats use different types of data, but the goal is the same – to use science to improve herd quality.
Heim worked with Harner to prepare three lab stations: animal condition evaluation, feed evaluation, and milking, each of which tied into concepts being taught during the lecture portion of the class. In particular, the class looked at total digestible nutrients – the amount of fat, crude fiber, and carbohydrates in a particular feed that an animal is able to digest, as well as several sub-measurements, including the types of fiber and fiber content in feeds.
“Corn, oats, barley are energy feeds -- you consider the energy in those feeds and the fiber,” Heim said.
After reviewing data on Harner’s milk goats, students calculated three rations they believed would lead to an increase in milk production based on nutritional data for the feed components. During the field trip, they were able to see and compare how those feeds measured out.
The feed measuring exercise effectively pointed out that volume and weight vary greatly with types of feeds, with approximately the same volume of grass hay weighing more than a pound less than straight alfalfa, and a mixed hay falling somewhere in between.
“With goats being a small animal, all we did was add one pound [of grain], which is a half of a percent of their body weight,” Heim said. “You could see some feed intake differences and some production (milk) differences.”
The goat that received the extra ration of corn did show an increase in milk production. However, due to the added fiber in oats and in beet pulp, the goats on those rations felt full so didn’t consume the full rations they were given.