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Issues Facing Animal Agriculture in Louisiana

Theresia A. Lavergne, Sidney M. DeRouen, Gary M. Hay and Michael F. Burnett

The combined value of Louisiana’s beef, dairy and poultry industries was $2.18 billion in 2011. The poultry industry is the largest animal agriculture industry with a total value of $1.6 billion. There are 354 commercial broiler and table egg producers that produce about 900 million pounds of broiler meat and 21 million dozen eggs each year. The total value of the beef industry is $448.3 million with 11,015 producers. The cow-calf production system is the primary beef cattle enterprise in Louisiana. The majority of beef commercial herds in Louisiana are composed of fewer than 50 cows. The total value of the dairy industry is $134.5 million. There are 140 dairy farms with a total of 16,190 cows in Louisiana. The total milk production is 221.4 million pounds annually.

Many issues can affect the management, profitability and sustainability of beef, dairy and poultry operations. Extension and research faculty need to be aware of these issues and work to help producers improve production practices. To determine the important issues, surveys were administered at group meetings with beef, dairy and poultry producers across Louisiana.

A total of 230 surveys were completed. Of the respondents, 85 worked in the beef industry, 71 in the dairy industry, and 74 in the poultry industry. One hundred thirty-six respondents were producers/growers, 18 worked in allied animal agriculture industries (industries that supply products or services to the beef, dairy and/or poultry industries), 13 worked for state agencies, 52 worked for the LSU AgCenter serving the animal agriculture industries, and 11 worked in other animal agriculture positions. Sixty-three of the respondents worked in animal agriculture for more than 40 years, 73 for 30 to 39 years, 40 worked for 20 to 29 years, 40 for 10 to 19 years. The other 14 worked for less than 10 years.

The makeup of the group was 150 males and 80 females, four African-Americans, 219 Caucasians, four Hispanics, and three “other” race.

The survey items and the average ratings of overall, beef, dairy and poultry industry respondents are presented in four tables. Go to the tables.

For economic issues, all groups rated the issues substantially important. “Rising input costs” is the item that received the numerically highest rating for all groups of respondents. “Global competition” received the numerically lowest rating for overall and for dairy respondents, “global competition” and “maintaining industry infrastructure” received the lowest ratings for beef industry respondents, and “land prices” received the numerically lowest rating for poultry industry respondents.

For environmental issues, the average ratings of overall respondents and poultry respondents were substantially important, whereas the average of beef and dairy respondents was moderately important. “Public perception of the environmental effects with animal agriculture” received the numerically highest average for all groups of respondents. The numerically lowest rating for overall respondents was for “impact of animal agriculture on air quality” and “tillage practices.” For beef producers the lowest average was for “impact of animal agriculture on air quality.” For dairy producers the lowest average was for “mortality disposal.” And for poultry producers the lowest average was for “tillage practices.” The greatest degree of difference in responses was for “animal waste disposal/utilization,” “mortality disposal,” “impact of animal agriculture on water quality” and “impact of animal agriculture on air quality.” The poultry industry rated these issues numerically higher than the beef and dairy industries.

All groups rated public policy issues substantially important. For all groups, the numerically highest rating was for “consumer confidence in food and animal product safety.” “Government subsidies of animal products” received the lowest numerical rating for beef and poultry respondents, and “government regulation of animal agriculture production practices” received the numerical lowest average for dairy respondents.

For production issues, the average ratings of all groups were substantially important. All groups of respondents gave the highest numerical rating to “improving production efficiency.” All groups gave the lowest numerical rating to “natural and organic production methods.” The greatest degree of difference in responses was for “biosecurity.” The poultry industry rated this issue higher than the beef and dairy industries.

Future animal agriculture research and extension programs should address the highly rated items: maintaining profitability with rising input costs; means of marketing products for producers to receive the best price for their products; being a “good neighbor” to ensure that the public perceives the animal agriculture industries as good stewards of the land and that animals are treated humanely; developing, implementing and continually practicing optimum quality control on the farm to maintain consumer confidence in animal agriculture products; and evaluating practices to increase the efficiency of production throughout all phases of animal production. 

Theresia A. Lavergne, Professor, School of Animal Sciences, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.; Sidney M. DeRouen, Professor, Dean Lee Research and Extension Center, Alexandria, La.; Gary M. Hay, Director and Professor, School of Animal Sciences; and Michael F. Burnett, Director, Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, LSU, Baton Rouge, La. 

(This article was published in the summer 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

Last Updated: 10/2/2012 2:28:48 PM

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