The agriculture field day held at Fannin Farm Supply in Jonesboro, La., follows a 10-year tradition of bringing together agricultural producers and LSU AgCenter experts to discuss issues and get updates on cattle production topics, said AgCenter Winn Parish county agent Donny Moon.
Cattle producers assembled to hear featured presentations covering warm- and cool-season forage management, pasture weed control and the new tax law covering exemptions for farm supply purchases.
AgCenter forage specialist Wink Alison talked about winter feed management and proposed ways to save money on supplement feeding needs without sacrificing cattle performance.
Alison cited several studies that showed cost savings and increases in weaning weights of calves from supplemental grazing on cool-season forages such as ryegrass, wheat, oats, cereal rye and clovers.
“Producing the quantity of feed needed for cows is not a big issue for us,” he said. “Our biggest issue is distribution.”
Without good quality hay, supplemental feed can be costly, especially if feeding up to 140 days during the winter months, he said.
Cattle herds can be allowed limited grazing periods on as little as one-quarter to one-third of an acre per cow of high-quality cool-season forages and receive adequate supplement during late winter and early spring with no difference in conception rates, body weight or condition from cattle fed on purchased supplements, Alison said.
Increasing cool-season forage acres to as much as 1.25 acres per cow can reduce hay needs as much as 30 percent and eliminate other supplemental feed costs, he said.
To increase calf performance, Alison said, calving seasons must be considered. Calves born in the fall will benefit from spring grazing on cool-season forages, while calves born later will not be old enough by spring to graze.
By allowing cows greater access to increased acreages of cool-season forages, calf weaning weight can be increased by as much as a 10 percent, he said.
AgCenter forage specialist Buddy Pitman discussed a new fungal concern in pasture management seen last year across northern Louisiana.
Tall matted bermudagrass allows for humid conditions that with the right temperature can create an environment susceptible to fungal growth that turns leaves brown and “frosted” looking, he said.
“We can’t do anything with the fungus on that tall growth because there are no fungicides labeled for pasture use,” Pitman said.
Late fall grazing
If planning to delay grazing or stockpile forage for late fall grazing, Pitman said, it is best to remove any old bermudagrass growth in August, fertilize with nitrogen, and start some higher-quality new growth.
Pitman offered advice on warm-season forage variety selection and management, encouraging producers to find varieties that perform well in their area, especially if planting more-expensive hybrid bermudagrass.
AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan presented several examples of common weeds plaguing Louisiana pastures and offered weed control recommendations for each.
He urged producers to start with herbicide applications to control buttercup, an annual winter broadleaf that is a big seed producer and appears usually in March as a sea of yellow flowers across pastures.
“Buttercup is easily controlled with 2,4-D,” he said.
Growers have to stop buttercup seed production from occurring because allowing seed production will just add more seed to the soil seed bank, he said, adding that the seed bank in the soil cannot be depleted with only one application. This weed will likely need to be treated every year for several consecutive years to manage severe buttercup infestations.
New tax legislation
State Sen. James R. “Jim” Fannin discussed new tax legislation regarding farm-related sales tax exemptions.
La. Senate Bill No. 97, written by Fannin and passed in the 2017 regular session, provides for sales and use tax exemptions for farm products used by commercial farmers.
Fannin said the bill will clarify the law by defining the criteria for what qualifies as a commercial farmer while supporting tax exemptions on eligible farm supply purchases in Louisiana.
“It isn’t about how big or small you are, it is about clearing up the law and allowing farmers to keep that exemption,” Fannin said.
All rules related to eligibility for the exemption will be available from the Louisiana Department of Revenue by July 1, and producers have until Jan. 1, 2019, to file for the new exemption certificate, he said.
The field day was coordinated by AgCenter county agents Donny Moon of Winn Parish and Robert Austin of Jackson Parish.