McNay Research and Demonstration Farm
Chariton, Lucas County
Iowa State University
The farm was established by a donation of 480 acres by Harry McNay and his sister, Winnie, in 1956. Additional land acquisitions allowed researchers to broaden the scope of the research conducted there.
What was once a plain has eroded to a series of irregular upland flats, flanked by gentle to steep slopes. The upland flats constitute about 20 percent of the land area. Predominant soils are:
Cattle. Animal scientists and veterinarians conduct beef breeding, nutrition, reproduction, health and management studies. Researchers use a herd of 300 spring-calving Simmental-Angus crossbred cows and their offspring to study body composition, reproduction and performance differences and to develop genetic predictions for various traits. Another 100 fall-calving cows are used to demonstrate an alternative beef production system and to produce stocker calves for summer grazing trials.
Forage. Researchers study yield and persistence of grasses, fertilizer requirements for hay and silage production, grazing management, intensive rotational grazing systems, pasture improvement, cool- and warm-season grass grazing systems and multi-species grazing (beef cattle and sheep). Researchers also conduct alfalfa variety trials and study methods for baling, binding and storing large round hay bales, year-round grazing systems and stock-piled grazing.
Sheep. The research sheep flock consists of 300 Dorset-Polypay and Dorset-Suffolk crossbred ewes. Researchers use the flock to study crossbreeding, nutrition, management, health and intensive lambing schedules.
Crops. Researchers evaluate reduced-tillage and reduced-chemical systems for controlling weeds and insects in corn and soybeans. Researchers also are evaluating systems of biomass production, measuring the energy values of crops for combustion and ethanol production. Tillage systems, strip-cropping and corn-breeding evaluation plots are also located on the farm.
The farm includes a 12,000-square-foot sheep research building, an 18-pen cattle feeding unit and an automated cattle feeding unit capable of handling several large groups of beef cattle. Sheep and cattle grazing paddocks support forage systems and predator control studies.