Livestock Nutrition Research Program

Dr. Travis Whitney, Project Leader

SPECIAL CONFERENCE EVENT:
Strategic Supplementation Strategies to Enhance Texas Rangelands & Reduce Livestock Production Costs
Kerrville, Texas  •  May 12, 2017

Click HERE to learn more.

RESEARCH FOCUS:

This interdisciplinary research program is directed toward helping livestock producers make informed management decisions related to feeding livestock.  The primary objective is to reduce costs associated with feeding livestock by: 1) increasing livestock production efficiency; 2) increasing the value of underutilized feed sources such as dried distillers grains and ground juniper and mesquite trees; and 3) using plant secondary compounds to enhance ruminal function, bypass protein, and animal health, and reduce internal parasite viability. Secondary objectives are to enhance animal fiber, carcass, and meat characteristics.

 

MOST RECENT JOURNAL ARTICLES: (* denotes graduate student)

  • Whitney, T. R., A. E. Lee, M. G. Williamson, C. D. Swening, and R. L. Noland. 2011. Use of the Penn State forage particle separator to evaluate coarse-ground juniper as a supplemental feed limiter for lambs. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 168:21–29.
  • Whitney, T. R., C. J. Lupton, and S.B. Smith. 2011. Redberry juniper as a roughage source in lamb feedlot rations: wool and carcass characteristics, meat fatty acid profiles, and sensory panel traits. Meat Sci. 89:160–165.
  • *Allphin, R. A., B. D. Lambert, T. R. Whitney, and J. P. Muir. 2012. Ruminal in situ nutrient disappearance from alfalfa and cottonseed hulls in goats fed dried distillers grains. Livest. Res. Rural Devel. 24:1−4. www.lrrd.org/lrrd24/10/allp24179.htm.
  • Adams, R. P., J. P. Muir, C. A., Taylor, Jr., and T. R. Whitney. 2012. Differences in chemical composition between browsed and non-browsed Juniperus ashei Buch. trees. Biochem. System. Ecol. 46:73−78.
  • *Armstrong, S., D. R. Klein, T. R. Whitney, C. B. Scott, J. P. Muir, B. D. Lambert, and T. M. Craig. 2013. Effect of using redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) to reduce H. contortus in vitro viability and increase ivermectin efficacy. Vet. Parasitol. 197:271−276.
  • Whitney, T. R., S. Wildeus, and A. M. Zajac. 2013. Effect of using redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) to reduce Haemonchus contortus fecal eggs and increase ivermectin efficacy. Vet. Parasitol. 197:182−188.
  • Adams, R. P., C. A., Taylor, Jr., T. R. Whitney, W. C. Stewart, and J. P. Muir. 2013. Goats and deer do not use terpenoids to select or avoid browsing on Juniperus pinchotii Sudw. trees. Phytologia. 95:238−245.
  • Whitney, T. R., C. J. Lupton, J. P. Muir, R. P. Adams, and W. C. Stewart. 2014. Effects of using ground redberry juniper and dried distillers grains with solubles in lamb feedlot diets: Growth, blood serum, fecal, and wool characteristics. J. Anim. Sci. 92:1119-1132.

 

MOST RECENT PRESENTATIONS & ABSTRACTS:

  • Whitney, T. R., and W. Stewart. 2013. Alternative Feeds: For a temporary crisis or permanent problem? Proceedings Paper and oral presentation by Whitney. West. Sec. Amer. Soc. Anim. Sci. and WERA-39 joint annual meeting, June 19. Bozeman, MT.
  • Whitney, T. R. and W. Stewart. 2013. Wood to Feed. 4th annual Rancher’s Workshop. Poster and oral presentation by Whitney. Annual NRCS/Soil and Water Conservation District meeting. Sonora Civic Center. May 16. Invited.
  • Whitney, T. R. 2013. Comparison of juniper feeds for livestock. Oral presentation. Jan. 24. Palo Alto College. San Antonio, TX.
  • Stewart, W. C., T. R. Whitney, E. J. Scholljegerdes, H. D. Naumann, N. M Cherry, R. P. Adams, K. D. Welch, and D. R. Gardner. 2014. Effects of juniper species and stage of maturity on nutritional, digestive, and plant secondary compound characteristics. Western Sec. Amer. Soc. Anim. Sci. 65:59−63.
  • Whitney, T. R. 2014. Converting wood to livestock feed. Oral presentation for the Concho Sheep and Goat Production Clinic. May 20. Eden, TX. Invited.
  • Whitney, T. R. 2014. Integrated design to increase brush management. Menard County Soil and Water Conservation District: Fall Pesticide Workshop. Menard, TX. Oct. 1. Invited.
  • Whitney, T. R. 2014. TX A&M AgriLife Research Wood to Feed Program. Texas Chapter ASMRA (Amer. Soc. of Rural Appraisers and Farm Managers). Uvalde, TX. Oct. 2. Invited.

 

CURRENT PROJECTS:

Enhance the livestock feeding value of ground Juniperus and Prosopis tree species and DDGS

  1. Proposal submitted to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to get ground Juniperus pinchotii and ashei approved as livestock feed ingredients.
  2. The use of ground mature woody plants (entire tree) in lamb feedlot diets on growth performance, rumen function, and wool and carcass characteristics.
  3. The use of ground mature woody plants in goat feedlot diets on growth performance and carcass characteristics.
  4. Use of ground juniper in white-tailed deer supplements.

 

MOST RECENTLY COMPLETED PROJECTS:

Enhance the livestock feeding value of ground Juniperus and Prosopis tree species and DDGS

  1. Differences in chemical composition between browsed and non-browsed Juniperus ashei and Juniperus Pinchotii
  2. Effects of ground redberry juniper, DDGS, and urea in supplements on lamb growth, serum metabolites and IGF-1, fecal N, rumen physiology, and microbial species composition.
  3. Substituting DDGS for cottonseed meal and sorghum grain in lamb-finishing diets: growth, serum metabolites and IGF-1, and wool, carcass, and fatty acid characteristics.
  4. Effects of using ground redberry juniper (leaves and small stems) and DDGS in lamb feedlot diets.
  5. Evaluating growth performance, serum metabolites, juniper intake, rumen microbial species composition, and ruminal parameters of goats genetically selected to consume juniper leaves while grazing.
  6. Evaluating differences in microbial species composition and rumen function between goats genetically selected to consume juniper leaves while grazing.
  7. Evaluating the use of ground redberry juniper in pregnant ewe supplements on ewe performance, reproductive characteristics, serum metabolites, and IGF-1 and on lamb growth.
  8. Effects of juniper species (Juniperus ashei, J. Pinchotii, J. monosperma, and J. virginiana) and stage of maturity on nutrients, digestive characteristics, and plant secondary compounds.
  9. Evaluating percentage of roughage in lamb finishing diets containing 40% dried distillers grains: Growth, serum urea nitrogen, nonesterified fatty acids, and insulin growth factor-1 concentrations and wool, carcass, and fatty acid characteristics.
  10. Supplements containing escape protein to improve redberry juniper intake by goats.
  11. Effect of using redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) to reduce Haemonchus contortus fecal egg shedding and in vitro viability and increase ivermectin efficacy.

 

Enhance laboratory and other procedures

  1. A modified in vitro larvae migration inhibition assay using rumen fluid to evaluate Haemonchus contortus viability.
  2. Use of the Penn State forage particle separator to evaluate coarse-ground juniper as a supplemental feed limiter for lambs.
  3. Research Project: Effects of adding urea to an in vitro buffer solution on digestibility and microbial gas production parameters of feed ingredients with high fiber and secondary compounds.

 

PLANNED RESEARCH & EXTENSION EFFORTS:

Planned Projects

  1. Research Project: Economic evaluation of an integrated Wood to Feed Program: from field to feed.
  2. Research Project: Evaluating the effects of using filter bags on in vitro digestibility and microbial gas production parameters of high-fiber feed ingredients.
  3. Research Project: Feeding ground juniper throughout the Haemonchus contortus life cycle to reduce larvae viability and fecundity.
  4. Research Project: Developing a rapid procedure to determine the purity of a batch of ground juniper material.
  5. Research Project: Effect of stem and chipped particle size, drying, pelleting, and ensiling, on nutrient profile, terpenoids, and condensed tannin concentrations.
  6. Submit a proposal to AAFCO to get other ground juniper species (e.g., Juniperus monosperma and J. virginiana) and various mesquite (Prosopis spp.) species approved as ruminant livestock feed ingredients.

Extension Efforts

  1. Develop an integrated website; discussion board, videos, etc…
  2. Continue traveling and speaking about the TX A&M AgriLife Nutrition and the Wood to Feed Programs.
  3. Train county extension agents and specialists on the use of ground woody products in ruminant livestock diets.

 

RESEARCH, TEACHING & EXTENSION STATEMENTS:

RESEARCH PROGRAM STATEMENT:
My Ruminant Nutrition Research Program is part of a holistic approach to “Ranching Solutions,” which is a core objective of the San Angelo AgriLife Research Center.  My program focuses on developing feeding strategies and designing innovative feeds for sheep and goats to decrease livestock production costs by developing and evaluating low-cost feed alternatives that enhance overall productivity as determined by growth efficiency, health, and quality of end products.  Specifically, I am investigating the feeding values of juniper (Juniperus sp.) the most widely distributed invasive brush species in the U.S., and dried distillers grains (DDG), availability of which has recently increased.  A combination of feeding and in vitro trials are used to address the following research objectives: 1) develop low-cost, effective feed rations for the sheep and goat industry; 2) evaluate performance, metabolism, nutrient balance, digestibility, bacteria efficiency, meat fatty acids, wool fiber and carcass characteristics, and production costs when livestock are fed diets containing ground juniper, DDG, or both; 3) increase the value and use of ground juniper by demonstrating that it can replace traditional roughage sources in feedlot rations and that its secondary compounds (condensed tannins and monoterpenoids) can reduce internal parasite viability and enhance rumen bypass protein and microbial efficiency; 4) develop methods for harvesting, grinding, and feeding juniper that can be extrapolated to similar browse species, i.e., pine, blueberry juniper, and one-seed juniper, growing in the U.S. and internationally; 5) increase collaboration with national and international research collaborators; 6) collaborate with rangeland scientists and agricultural engineers to evaluate and develop equipment to efficiently and economically harvest juniper and incorporate it into mixed diets; and 7) determine if juniper can be used in white-tailed deer supplements to reduce supplementation costs by eliminating non-target species consumption.

Objectives of my Nutrition Program are diverse, thus require multiple collaborations with colleagues across the state and country that have diverse specialties.  To increase the use and adoption rate of my research findings, I have delivered numerous oral presentations to clientele and colleagues, published results in multiple journals, guest-lectured for the Texas A&M University, Department of Animal Science (College Station), summarized research findings for a Texas AgriLife communications specialist, and frequently consulted with AgriLife Extension personnel, livestock producers, livestock industry representatives, and administrators.

TEACHING PROGRAM STATEMENT:
As my Ruminant Nutrition Research Program has developed over the past 5 years, it has created various opportunities for me to teach students in the field, laboratory, and classroom about livestock production management and nutrition.  I technically am not required to have a teaching program or a set curriculum; however, with the students that I train, I strive to incorporate my previous work experiences (from ranching to isolating mRNA), education, literature, and research efforts into our discussions.  I also participate in AgriLife Extension youth programs because it is very important to demonstrate to high school students the numerous and exciting career opportunities in agriculture.

I believe that the research technicians and undergraduate and graduate students that have been trained in my laboratory, have gained a more thorough understanding of livestock nutrition and feeding strategies, rumen physiology, metabolism, animal health, data management, research methods, and statistical design and evaluation.  Some of the undergraduates that I have trained have expressed interest in pursuing advanced degrees and all my graduate students successfully completed their degrees with some gaining prominent agricultural-related employment.

EXTENSION PROGRAM STATEMENT:
The importance of integrating an extension component into my research program cannot be overemphasized.  Synthesizing previous research efforts with current research and livestock production activities and then being able to effectively present this information to clientele and extension personnel is critical to the success of any research faculty’s program.  Therefore, a primary objective is to increase the application and adoption rate of research discoveries by delivering oral presentations to clientele and colleagues at regional field days and conferences, publishing results in journals, and summarizing research efforts for dissemination by agricultural communications specialists.  Another objective is to frequently consult with AgriLife Extension personnel, livestock producers, and agricultural industry representatives to gain a better understanding of issues that need to be addressed through research.

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