by Danielle Beard
Parsons, Kansas —
Livestock water quality was the topic of choice during the 75th Elk County Livestock Conservation Tour June 15.
The first stop of the tour was at the land of Elk County Soil Conservation Technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, David Criger where he discussed first calf heifers and tire tanks.
Standing in his pasture in the midst of 20 heifers calmly grazing, despite being held near each other by several people horseback. Criger began his talk on his heifer replacement program by crediting the easy disposition of his heifers.
Along with proper care and handling Criger uses freeze branding. He believes the benefits of freeze branding are being able to identify cattle from a long distance and having a long lasting brand.
Criger winters his cattle on tame grasses next to his house, but processes most of his own hay and is a firm believer in bunk feeding.
“I feel like we have almost zero waste to do it this way,” he said.
Criger processes all his hay by using Distillers Dried Grain with Solubles, which he said makes low quality hay better. He also processes straw to provide cattle with roughage in the winter.
He added, with feed costs becoming so high, he had to find alternative methods to make his operation cost efficient. Criger explained that by feeding his combination it comes to about four cents a pound less than buying feed.
Another practice Criger uses with his herd is bull leasing. He said by doing this a lot of the risk is eliminated.
“If I lease a bull that doesn’t work for me, the guy tells me bring him back and I’ll get you a new one,” Criger continued.
You can’t do that if you own the bull yourself, if he doesn’t work out, you have the expense of purchasing another one, he added.
The lease agreement he has with bulls allows him to have them for six months, but he said all of his heifer’s are usually bred after 60 days.The final key point Criger covered in crediting the health of his cattle was the installation of rubber tire water tanks. He explained besides keeping water cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and being both energy-free and freeze proof, these tanks have easy access to the plumbing making it simple to work on them when the need arises.
Criger concluded that he uses prepared water in his tanks, and while most people might view it as a more expensive route, he believes it pays off in cattle performance.
Later in the tour Ardath Lawson, a wildlife biologist from South Central Kansas Pheasants Forever, Inc., and Quail Forever, reviewed the benefits wildlife gain from riparian fencing.
Lawson showed those attending the area on Criger’s property that had riparian fencing. The area was a creek with trees lining the banks, fencing had been put in place to prevent cattle from accessing this area.
She explained cattle increase stream bank erosion and parasites in water from manure, but riparian fencing also benefits cattle as well. Lawson said keeping them away from the creek can reduce disease since they won’t be spending all day in water.
According to Lawson cattle safety is an added bonus to riparian areas since sharp rocks and rough terrain along creeks can cause hoof and leg issues.
“Riparian fencing keeps cattle from hurting themselves,” she said.
This type of conservation also benefits the hunting and fishing industries as well as farmers. Riparian areas offer a habitat for pollinating insects which in turn keeps them close to cropland.
Lawson discussed the availability of cost-share money for conservation programs like these.
According to Criger, he wasn’t open minded about the idea when he was first approached about it. Now he sees the added benefits and thinks it is something everyone should look into.£