OKLAHOMA State University has been awarded a $1 million grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture to provide some of the first climate adaptation tools for beef producers in the form of water management resources.
"The ultimate goal is to develop beef cattle and production systems that are more readily adaptable to the negative effects of drought," said Megan Rolf, an animal scientist with Oklahoma State's Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources who is the project's principal investigator.
One of the primary emphases of the project is the development of a water management resources tool, working in conjunction with the Oklahoma Mesonet.
"Oklahoma beef producers already have access to a 'cattle comfort index' through the Mesonet system," Rolf said. "This allows them to fine-tune operational management decisions related to animal well-being and to essentially do so in real time, as well as forecast possible future concerns."
Rolf said a major short-term objective is to expand the cattle comfort index so the information provided is usable by beef producers no matter where they reside in the nation. Longer term, the project scientists will focus on the use of genetic selection tools to increase the adaptability of beef cattle to climate variability.
The $1 million project is the first of its kind, focusing on the measurement of water intake efficiency at the same time researchers are measuring feed efficiency on a large scale, the university said.
"Given the world's ever-increasing population, it is more important than ever to develop and promote beef production systems that are economically sustainable for both producers and consumers while also fostering environmental stewardship," said Clint Krehbiel, co-principal investigator and research coordinator for Oklahoma State's department of animal science.