Current and future cattle producers attending the Northeast Beef and Forage field day at Goldmine Plantation, Mangham, La., on Sept. 17 heard the latest information on how to improve profits in their industry.
LSU AgCenter area beef specialist Jason Holmes reminded participants that just having cattle in the pasture does not guarantee a profit. He said producers need to be aware of the importance of the body conditioning score of the cattle. Unproductive cattle cost more money than they are worth, he said, explaining the importance of maintaining satisfactory body condition scores, which range from 1 to 9, with 1 being very thin and with 9 being very obese.
“We’re trying to hit the middle of the scale at a 5 for the mature cow herd or 6 for replacement heifers,” Holmes said. “We have excellent forages here, so we are able to stay in the 5 range pretty easily.”
It’s all about reproductive efficiency and increasing profits, Holmes said. “If we can’t produce a calf every year, then we’re decreasing profits.”
Research shows that mature cows should be kept at a body condition score of 5. Holmes said at a score of 2, the producer is looking at about a 50 percent pregnancy rate. But when the score is raised to a 5, that percentage is raised to 80 to 90 percent.
At the hay plot, AgCenter agent Keith Collins from Richland Parish discussed the importance of being aware of nutrient removal in hay production, and Jimmy McCann, AgCenter agent in Caldwell Parish, demonstrated how to take a proper hay sample for analysis.
Because the AgCenter no longer does forage analysis for the public, McCann said, producers can bring their samples to their AgCenter parish office, and the agent will send it to one of several testing labs for a fee comparable to the amount the AgCenter had charged.
AgCenter forage specialist Wink Alison talked about the value of hay quality and informed the growers that if the quality is high enough and the cows are in a good enough condition, hay can be fed without any added supplement.
“It really depends on the cow’s individual situation and the calving program,” Alison said.
AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan drew high interest because most of the producers have some type of major weed problem in their pastures.
In addition to weeds, Strahan said he’s hearing a lot about problems with Chinese tallow trees and Chinese privet.
“One of the best ways to get rid of these invasive species is with the hack and squirt process,” Strahan said. “Once you make the cut in the tree and squirt Tordon RTU specialty herbicide into the cut, within about 45 days the trees will be completely dead.”
Cattle producers have experienced some of the best prices ever for the past several years, said AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry.
“The decrease in livestock numbers due to the extreme drought conditions in Texas and several other states during the past several years has caused some really positive prices for producers,” he said.
Guidry said a number of factors, including an increase in cow numbers and an increase in the price of corn, have recently had a negative effect on the price of beef.
“What we’ve been seeing lately are prices trending downward,” Guidry said. “We’re in the rebuilding phase, and this has caused prices to decrease $15 to $20 per hundredweight from this time last year.”
AgCenter engineer Randy Price discussed opportunities drones could have for cattle producers.
“Crop producers are seeing the benefits of this technology, but it can also be beneficial for cattle producers as well,” Price said.
Elijah McCormack, a sophomore at Harrisonburg High School in Catahoula Parish, saw the field day as a great learning experience because of the many topics that were covered.
“I was really interested in learning about the proper body structure of cattle and about the nutrients in hay,” he said.
McCormack plans to attend Louisiana Tech when he graduates and wants to major in petroleum engineering.
Goldmine Plantation manager Richard Morris said this is the third year the field day has been held at the location and he looks forward to hosting it each year.
Goldmine Plantation is a 3,500-acre operation that consists of 600 acres of pastureland and over 400 head of crossbred and registered cattle.