Steer study: Ag students help conduct Purina feed trial
GLASGOW, Ky. (AP) - Donovan London and Daylin Posey woke up every morning before school to feed cows during a 28-day feed trial that was being conducted by Barren County High School agriculture students.
"I like being around cows," said London, a BCHS junior, adding that his ag teacher, Andy Moore, offered him the opportunity to feed them every morning. "And I hopped right on that."
In addition to feeding the cattle, the two students would inspect the cows to make sure they weren't breathing hard or had any health issues.
Posey, who is also a junior, grew up and lives on a farm.
"I'd rather be around cows than half the time with people," he said with a laugh.
London and Posey both work part-time at Farmers Regional Livestock Market of Glasgow where they handle cattle, so Moore had them use their expertise in helping instruct the other students.
"I knew they would be comfortable and be aware of how to handle the cattle," Moore said. "That made it all go smoother."
The ag teacher said this opportunity began when Southern States Glasgow Cooperative reached out to him about participating in the feed trial, and that Purina Animal Nutrition arranged for a local farmer to provide 10 steers and the hay to feed them. He added that Southern States and Purina also provided additional equipment that they needed to conduct the trial.
The students followed specific procedures for feeding the steers twice a day, and every Monday, they weighed the calves.
"Everything was logged, and the students did this," Moore said. "Even down to the hay. If it was half a bale of hay or a full bale of hay. We made packets for each student to have, and they were responsible for keeping their own records and we also kept a group set of records.
"The hay sample made the students aware that even the quality of the hay needs to be examined and considered. The biggest point of all this — when it was all said and done — the results that we helped get were sent to Purina headquarters."
Katie Carrier, mid-atlantic division livestock production specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition, frequently visited during the trial and directed the students while teaching them about feed efficiency and average daily gain.
"The students were heavily involved," Carrier said. "They got a lot of hands-on experience while working with these calves — especially when we weighed them. They were in there with them and learning behavior and movement and how to work them, so that's a really big takeaway.
"Even the students who didn't grow up on operations or around cattle, they got that exposure."
Carrier said she sent in their trial results to Purina's cattle specialist, "and he inputs it into our whole entire southeastern region search database for our starter feeds."
"I actually use (the data) out on the farm every day," she added.
According to data provided by Carrier, the feed trial resulted with the following results: average initial weight — 501.2 pounds; average final weight — 572.0 pounds; average total gain — 70.8 pounds; average daily gain — 2.5 pounds per head per day; feed intake — 5.0 pounds/HD/D; feed efficiency — 2.0; cost/head/day — $1.46/HD/D; and cost of gain — $0.58/pound of gain.
"We got the steers consuming hay and feed on Day 1," Carrier said. "And then we gained consistently throughout the whole trial an average of 2.5 pounds per head per day."
Carrier said interacting with the students was a great experience.
"I really enjoyed working with them," she said. "I was already enthused, but seeing their faces light up . . . it was rewarding on all parts."
Carrier said they definitely want to conduct another trial like this again in the future, and that Southern States and Purina both want to recognize the hard work and effort of the students.
"We do appreciate their help and their enthusiasm with the trial," she said, adding that this trial was also beneficial for the producer who provided the steers.
Moore said the producer gave the school a donation to put back into the program.
"That let me know that he was happy, too," Moore said with a big smile.