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Ruminant Nutrition Center

Class held at in front of cattle and feed

The Ruminant Nutrition Center (RNC) at South Dakota State University is home of the university research feedlot. The 50-pen research facility is capable of performing production-scale feedlot management comparisons. Research related to current and long-term issues facing the beef feeding industry benefits the current and future feedlot industry of South Dakota. The RNC serves as the primary educational facility for the hands-on training of undergraduate students in the Feedlot Operations and Management course and graduate students interested in feedlot nutrition and management.

Professor showing a small bin of cattle feed to students in class held at the RNC

All processes used in experiments at the RNC are commonly used management practices in commercial feedlots of the area. The RNC facilities can be broken down into four unique entities: a cattle processing facility, feed manufacturing facility, research feedlot pens and hospital facility. Recent renovations include new waterers in all pens, an improved feed delivery system and a new cattle processing building and cattle handling equipment.

The overall theme for the RNC research program is nutrition and management interventions that enhance finishing beef cattle production. Ongoing research is related to the use of bedding and terminal implant potency in finishing cattle fed during winter months. Future research is planned that focuses on various byproduct feedstuffs, the interaction of feeding differing levels of silage and terminal implant type in finishing cattle.

Professor showing a hanful of cattle feed to students at the RNC.

The RNC feedlot represents approximately a 1/20th scale of a 15,000-head commercial feedlot. Research pens (n = 50 pens, 25’ × 25’ concrete surface) contain fence line feed bunks and a heated water tank. These pens are capable of housing eight to 10 animals per pen. Cattle on trials are individually weighed every 28 days. Diets are formulated by the faculty ruminant nutritionist and mixed on-site. Feed is mixed in a stationary feed wagon by adding ingredients into the mixer individually to the nearest pound and then delivered to each pen to the nearest one-pound increment. Typically, five to nine pens are used for each treatment. This level of precision in feeding and cattle management allows for identification of differences as small as 5% in feed conversion and daily gain.

The unit is managed by Paul Schlobohm, and the faculty supervisor is Zachary Smith.