UNL Talks Beef, Drought at Husker Harvest Days

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

UNL is talking beef at this year's Husker Harvest Days through hands on education like their Mobile Beef Lab, and by letting people try new things through a meat cutting and sampling demonstration.

Extension educators say that with one in every three Nebraskans being involved in ag in some way, they want to strengthen the state of beef.

"Beef is a key economic driver for the state," says Richardson County Extension Educator Lindsay Chichester. "One in every five steaks across the country come from cattle produced in Nebraska, so that's a lot of red meat coming out of the state and a lot of people employed in the ag industry."

But the drought is taking its toll on beef too, and officials say one thing livestock producers need to be aware of as they start to feed silage and graze cattle on crop resident is a build up of nitrates in drought stressed crops.

Beef specialists tested hundreds of samples brought in by producers, as they say high nitrates can be harmful to cattle just as they are to humans.

"It is a similar challenge for cattle, but this is mediated through the feed," says Beef Feedlot Extension Specialist Galen Erickson. "Cattle are much more tolerant to higher nitrates in their diet or in the drinking water."

Galen Erickson says their quick litmus test can reveal if there's a problem, but he says there's less concern for grazing cattle.

"If they're grazing residue, there's probably very little in most of those cases because the nitrate is actually in the stem of the plant, and so it doesn't show up so much in the leaves and other parts of the plant," he says.

Beef specialists recommend producers with concerns get their samples tested at a commercial lab which Erickson says is highly accurate and fairly inexpensive.

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