Bruce Schultz, Rowntree, Jason E. | 1/20/2006 2:05:54 AM
Another group has successfully completed an extensive educational program designed to help them be better cattle producers.
The 2005 class of the Master Cattle Program received diplomas at the recent Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association Convention in Alexandria.
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, reminded the graduates during the Jan. 13 ceremony that the Master Cattle Producer program is the result of a successful partnership among the AgCenter, the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
"It’s collaboration and partnership at its best," he said.
The Master Cattle Producer program is designed to help cattle producers learn how to increase their profitability while producing animals in the most environmentally friendly methods. It is a spinoff from the LSU AgCenter’s highly successful Master Farmer program, which focuses on teaching farmers to minimize environmental effects while maximizing productivity.
Completing the Master Cattle Producer program signifies a higher level of expertise, Coreil said.
"You are in an elite group," he told the graduates. "You can market your cattle as Master Cattle Producers."
Coreil said the two major hurricanes of 2005 had a significant impact on many cattle producers in the coastal parishes.
"I know producers who lost everything they had, and that was their life savings," he said.
John Perkins of Coushatta, who raises black angus cattle, said he benefited from the coursework involved in the Master Cattle Producer program.
"I learned a lot from top to bottom," he said. "They reinforced a lot of material."
Perkins said he benefited most from sections on nutrition and pasture management.
Because he is a shift worker, Perkins said he had to juggle taking classes in Natchitoches and Shreveport, but he said it was worth the effort.
Frank Dunne of St. Helena Parish took the class with his wife, Janie.
"It was well worth it," she said.
Algy and Mary Irvin of Thibodaux also took the class together.
"I think it was an excellent program, especially for beginning cattlemen," Algy Irvin said. "I wish they would have had it 15 years ago when I started raising cattle."
He said the courses rounded out his knowledge. He praised the instructors for their thoroughness.
"The instructors went far beyond the call of duty," Algy Irwin said. "They tried to make sure all the information got across to those who needed it."
Mary Irvin also said she learned a lot from the classes on the Beef Quality Assurance program and the emphasis on choosing the correct vaccination site.
"We didn’t realize how critical that is," she said.
Paula Courtright of Colfax took the class with her husband, Dennis, to improve their herd of 150 Simmental.
Even though they have more than 30 years with cattle, Mrs. Courtright said, "I learn something every day in the cattle business."
Gene Barber of Bentley also shared that sentiment, saying the instruction he received challenged some of the old ways.
"We all grew up on a cow farm, doing things the way daddy said do it," said Barber, president of the Grant Parish Cattlemen’s Association.
Leo LeBlanc of Port Allen also said he learned several new things.
"It taught me I need controlled grazing and soil testing more often," he said. "It changes the way you do business and it increases the profit of the farm."
Dennis Viola of Pointe Coupee Parish said he has only been working with cattle for three years, so he said he started using some of the things he learned in the class – although an uncle with decades of experience doubted its effectiveness until it produced results.
"He said, ‘What did you do? Whatever it is, it’s working,’" Viola said.
Since the Master Cattle Producer program started in 2004, 380 students from across the state have completed the program, including 280 during 2005.
Dr. Jason Rowntree, the LSU AgCenter’s beef specialist, said the 11 weekly, three-hour classes included in the program provide information on a wide range of topics useful to anyone who raises cattle. Requirements to graduate involve completing the educational phase of the Master Farmer program and a class on Beef Quality Assurance Training.
Topics covered in the classes are pasture management, breeding, reproduction, animal health, animal handling, nutrition, end product and financial management.
Anyone interested in going through the program should contact an agent in his or her parish LSU AgCenter Extension Office.