For almost 100 years, the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory has been helping ranchers be more effective and profitable. The Lab’s research has changed how we manage rangelands, starting with studies in the 1930s to figure out optimum stocking rates for cattle and sheep on rangelands. What they learned helped reduce soil loss due to over-grazing and it increased production of both livestock and wildlife. Some of their most recent contributions include their discovery that it’s not necessary to keep cattle off rangelands for two years after fire, and that we can feed cows and heifers less and end up with more efficient animals. Both discoveries are critical to keeping ranchers in the business.
But these kinds of important discoveries could be coming to an end. The Lab is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and in the most recent proposed budget it was one of 11 labs slated to be closed.
That would be a real loss to all of us.
You may not know it, but the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Lab has been a part of your life for a long time. Methods for genetic evaluation of beef cattle were pioneered at Fort Keogh in the 1930s. All beef performance testing programs now active in the United States and much of the rest of the world are built on this foundation. So, when you use estimated breeding values and expected progeny differences to select breeding stock you can thank the folks at the lab. Researchers at the lab were the first to establish birth weight as the most important factor in calving difficulty. If you’re irrigating, you might be using the water spreading systems they developed, as the researchers worked to demonstrate that water normally lost to runoff could be used to grow more native and introduced grasses. Finally, if you’re raising crossbred cattle, tip your hat to the folks at Fort Keogh who first demonstrated that crossbreeding improved beef production efficiency.
Today, the lab’s research program focuses on improving efficiency of beef cattle production on rangeland. Staff is looking at genetics, reproductive physiology, nutrition and growth of beef cattle, and at range pasture development, improvement and management. It’s problem-solving, basic research to meet the immediate and future needs of farmers and ranchers. It’s the kind of research that no one else funds or does because no one makes money from it except the rancher.
We think it’s important to use tax dollars to support this kind of research because it’s a way for Americans to support the people who raise all our food. As a nation, we put some pretty heavy burdens on the folks that do that job, asking them to meet all kinds of environmental and safety regulations. It only seems reasonable that we would support work that helps farmers and ranchers be more productive and profitable. And that’s just what the folks at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Lab do.
If you’d like to support their work, let your elected officials know. You can also contact the house and senate committees on agriculture to let them know that they need to keep on funding the Livestock and Range Research Lab. And hurry! The budget is being worked on right now.
U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry
328A Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2035, Fax: (202) 228-2125
House Committee on Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office ,Building Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-2171, Fax: 202-225-4464