Interim Report

Team Number: 053
School Name: Des Moines High School
Area of Science: Botany
Project Title: Balancing annual forage supply and demand on Northeastern New Mexico ranches.
Project Abstract: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/abstracts/053.html
Interim Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/interims/o53.html
Final Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/finalreports/053/finalreport.html

The purpose of this project is to create a computer program that will aid ranchers in determining the number of animals that could be supported by the available forage and to balance seasonal forage demands and supply.

Throughout the first few months, we have researched our project and started on our program. We have found an excellent resource with Range Economics by John P. Workman. Included in his book are the aum's, grass tonage (forage quality and production), and formulas necessary for our program.

The livelihood of every rancher depends on the management of available resources. Every spring, ranchers must determine how much additional stock, if any, can be supported by expected surplus forage after considering the needs of a base herd maintained on the ranch on a yearlong basis. This base herd includes cows, bulls, replacement heifers and wildlife. Additionally, yearling steers and heifers (stockers) have increasingly been produced to harvest forage on a seasonal basis.

In order to ensure maximum performance of grazing animals, to provide long-term protection of the range, and to avoid high supplemental feed costs, wise management is imperative. Proper rangeland stocking is an important part of the management decision.

AUM is an abbreviation for animal unit per month. This means the amount of feed consumed per month by a particular class and type of animal. For example, cattle have different feed and nutritional requirements than deer or elk. Cows, calves, and bulls will all have different AUM's as well, because of their size.

Yearlings are cattle that are one year old. They can be either sex, but most are steers (male). Stockers are heifers (female) who are run as yearlings for a terminal purpose instead of breeding. (Terminal purposes are strictly slaughter.) Yearlings are started in the spring and run until the fall. The purpose of running yearlings is to utilize extra forage in summer pastures, by buying the cattle in late spring and shipping them in the fall.

Cows are mature female cattle. Their offspring are born in the spring and weaned in the fall. The cows are bred in the summer, usually June or July. Because of their gestation, milk production requirements, the growing needs of the calf, and nutritional requirements, feed consumption for cows vary over the year. Bull AUM's also vary due to the different breeding purposes.

Forage quality differs according to the particular species, climate, terrain, moisture, and season. The quality is important because of the nutritional content and supplement. The better the forage quality the better the cattle will perform (which includes gain, milk production, and meat quality). Forage, however, doesn't grow all year long. In winter, the grass dies and lies dormant. Dead grass has a different nutritional content, which is why cattle do not perform well in harsh winters, and supplemental feed is sometimes required. Therefore "forage" in our project will be a variable with the season.

Our progress has consisted of:

We have a framework of the coding we plan to use to determine the amount of available forage. The user inputs answers to various questions about their land, cattle, climate, forage use, and game and wildlife forage consumption. Our program will eventually output the amount of available forage supply.

Team Members:

Sponsoring Teacher(s):

Project Advisor:

New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge