By: Bruce Schultz, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center Research and Extension
More than 150 people attended the 2014 Beef Cattle Producers Annual Spring Field Day held at the Louisiana State University AgCenter Iberia Research Station on March 8.
The LSU AgCenter Master Cattle Producer Program recognized 47 graduates at the field day. They underwent more than 30 hours of classroom instruction.
Phil Elzer, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for animal science programs, told the group that a regional concept is being started to expand the Master Cattle Producer Program statewide. Ryon Walker at the Hill Farm Research Station and Guillermo Scaglia at the Iberia Research Station will be working with county agents in the north, central and eastern parts of the state. Three extension agents will also have beef cattle responsibilities – Vince Deshotel in St. Landry Parish, Jason Holmes in Union Parish and Kenny Sharpe in Livingston Parish.
Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said the Master Cattle and Louisiana Master Farmer programs demonstrate the agricultural industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
During the field tour, Scaglia, beef cattle nutritionist, gave a summary about his experiment evaluating different stocking rates. He is using 3.3-acre paddocks and stocking them with five, six, seven and eight steers weighing an average of 550 pounds.
Scaglia discussed an experiment using heifers grazing ryegrass alone or supplemented with ground corn or soybean hulls. He said the animals get the protein mainly from grass, and the supplements are intended for energy needs. He said 3.5 pounds of supplementary feed per head each day allows the heifers to gain weight well.
Scaglia also told the attendees about his study of two groups, each with 31 Brangus cows. One group is getting all they need in terms of their nutritional requirements and their pastures are well-fertilized, while the other group is managed more extensively.
"We are comparing a high versus low input cow-calf system," he said, adding that the performance and economic evaluation of both groups will be compared.
Karl Harborth, LSU AgCenter livestock specialist, said vitamins and minerals are essential to proper cattle nutrition, and cattle owners should take a proactive approach. "We don’t find out we have a problem with our mineral nutrition until it’s too late."
He said year-round supplementation can be done, but it’s more costly. He said high iron levels in drinking water can interfere with cattle absorbing enough essential elements such as copper.
Harborth said the hard freezes have affected green grasses, so cattle without good grazing will require supplements of Vitamins A and E.
Ed Twidwell, LSU AgCenter forage specialist, said the recent cold weather has given weeds an advantage over grasses, and 2,4-D at a pint per acre can be used to control 80 percent of broadleaf weeds with only 10 percent damage to clovers. Increasing the rate to a quart boosts weed control to 90 percent but it damages 70 percent of clover.
"This is the best time of year to control curly dock and buttercup and not damage your clover," he said.
Other chemicals such as Grazon P+D, Weedmaster and Pasture Guard will control weeds but kill all clover, he said.
He said broomsedge is becoming more of a problem, even in pastures regularly cut for hay.
Smutgrass has become the state’s No. 1 pasture weed problem, he said, but it can be controlled with Velpar. However, the chemical is expensive, requires moisture after application, and it can kill nearby trees.
Shannon Gonsoulin, a veterinarian in Iberia Parish, told the crowd about a 10-year study of calving problems. He said continental breeds tend to have more calving difficulties because of their shape and size. "Anything with a Brahman influence is going to be an easier calving if you look at the numbers and percentages."
County agents Stan Dutile of Lafayette Parish and Andrew Granger of Vermilion Parish demonstrated ways of assisting delivery of a calf with devices to remove the newborn from the birth canal.
The birth process should only take an hour or two, Dutile said, and assistance should not be given unless calving is delayed.
Granger said gentleness is essential to avoid injuring the cow or calf.
Dutile said pregnant cows nearing delivery will show signs before calving by isolating themselves from a herd. Granger said cows regularly fed in late afternoon tend to have daytime births.
Newborn calves should start nursing within 30 minutes, Dutile said, and a colostrum supplement can be used if a calf refuses to nurse.