Pamela Hodson, Posey, Aubrey L., Morgan, Johnny W. | 6/9/2005 3:04:56 AM
The LSU AgCenter has created a Dairy Initiative Team to help the Louisiana dairy industry face some of the most trying of times.
Dr. Pam Hodson, the LSU AgCenter’s regional director for southeastern Louisiana, said the team of dairy specialists, county agents and campus faculty members will be looking at some of the problems farmers are facing and developing ways to better address them.
"What we’re doing is looking for ways to help the dairy farmers who are doing their best right now to make a profit," said Hodson, who oversees LSU AgCenter operations in an area that includes the bulk of the state’s dairy farms, as well as the AgCenter’s Southeast Research Station, which conducts research to support that industry.
Hodson said the LSU AgCenter also is working with dairy experts at Mississippi State University to help dairy farmers of southwestern Mississippi.
Louisiana’s dairy industry contributed nearly $212 million to the state’s economy in 2004.
About two-thirds of Louisiana’s dairy farmers are in the Florida parishes of southeastern Louisiana – with additional production coming primarily in DeSoto Parish. Hodson said the bulk of the dairy team’s work will be concentrated on southeastern Louisiana, but she added that dairy farmers in the northwestern part of the state will be included in AgCenter programs.
Three LSU AgCenter agents who will work directly with producers on a regular basis are Aubrey Posey, a dairy agent in Washington Parish; Dr. Ronnie Bardwell, an area dairy agent stationed at the Southeast Research Station near Franklinton; and Chuck Griffin, a dairy agent in DeSoto Parish.
The three will work exclusively with the dairy industry, Hodson said, explaining that the team will focus on a small set of issues that dairy producers and experts agree are in need of attention. They will be supported by a variety of dairy researchers and specialists located at the southeast station and in departments on the LSU AgCenter’s campus in Baton Rouge, as well as other AgCenter faculty members.
"From there, we hope the producers will use the practices that we make available to them and share the information with their neighbors – who we hope will also adopt the practices," Hodson said
Posey said he expects some new equipment the LSU AgCenter recently acquired "will allow us to provide additional management information to producers that will enable them to make management decisions based on sound, current information that applies to their farm."
Hodson said the LSU AgCenter will be working with farmers to produce their own replacement heifers – thereby saving money while selectively breeding for increased milk production.
Bardwell said one aspect of the program will be to help producers increase the weight of their heifers before calving age. He said producers are now raising heifers to about 1,000 to 1,050 pounds at calving, and the team hopes to show them how to get the calving weights up to 1,250 to 1,500 pounds cost effectively.
"We’ll select five calves from 10 farmers and take them to a professional grower," Bardwell said. "The farmers will keep five to raise at the farm. We will then track them for 24 to 26 months."
Bardwell said they’ll compare the weights to show the farmers what they need to do in order to get their heifers to the targeted weights for increased milk production.
He said some dairy producers currently send their heifers to professional growers to free up space on the farm.
"This is an area that needs to be explored as a niche market, because there are no professional growers here in the state," he said.
Hodson the team will explore the possibility of bringing more modern dairy operations on line.
"We’re looking at the possibility of getting farmers to begin operating larger, confined dairies, where the current operations are more pasture-based," she said.
For additional information on the Louisiana dairy industry, contact your local LSU AgCenter or visit www.lsuagcenter.lsu.edu.
Ronnie Bardwell at (985)839-2322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pam Hodson at 985) 543-4129 or email@example.com
Chuck Griffin at (318) 872-0533 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Aubrey Posey at (985) 839-7855 or email@example.com
Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org