AgCenter News

Linda Benedict, Attaway, Denise, Schultz, Bruce, Blanchard, Tobie M., Gautreaux, Craig, Bogren, Richard C., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  11/11/2014 9:43:34 PM

Andrew Granger, LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish, far right, holds up a foxtail plant while talking about different ways to control the weed inpastures during the Acadiana Cattle Producers fall field day held on Oct. 2 in Vermilion Parish. (Photo by Bruce Schultz.)

Brahman-influenced cattle at the LSU AgCenter Ben Hur Farm in Baton Rouge. (Photo by John Wozniak.)

Newly harvested sweet potatoes. (Photo by Linda Foster Benedict.)

LSU AgCenter researcher Witoon Prinyawiwatkul explains a texture analyzer that’s used to measure the hardness and springiness of food samples. The equipment is in the new Animal and Food Sciences Laboratories Building on the Baton Rouge campus. (Photo by Rick Bogren.)

Cow replacement suggestions featured at field day

Cattle owners considering an increase in their herds should be mindful of paying too much for heifers, LSU AgCenter beef cattle experts advised at the Acadiana Cattle Producers fall field day held in Vermilion Parish on Oct. 2.

AgCenter beef economist Ross Pruitt said recouping the costs of buying and maintaining a heifer should be considered before a purchase.

“If you are paying more than $2,200 for females, you are running the risk of having cash flow problems in the last few years of a loan if the purchase is financed,” Pruitt said.

Beef prices inevitably will decline after the cattle industry is able to add females and increase production after several years of herd inventory declines, Pruitt said. Prices should continue to increase next year, but not as rapidly as this year as pork and poultry levels expand. An additional increase of $3 to $5 per hundredweight in 2016 is also possible.

The peak has not been reached, he said, and prices are about two to three years away from declining. LSU AgCenter beef specialist Karl Harborth said producers should consider whether older cows should be culled because their prime years are between ages five and 10.

LSU AgCenter beef nutritionist Guillermo Scaglia said bull selection is the first consideration to be made for replacement heifers.

A bull with a larger scrotal circumference results in heifers capable of reaching puberty earlier, he said.

Quality of nutrition of a pregnant cow also will determine an offspring’s muscle development and birth weight, he said. A nutritional deficit in the second trimester of gestation may reduce the number of muscle fibers in the offspring, and if the deficit is in the third trimester, the size of these fibers will be reduced, reducing birth weight and possibly affecting the age and weight at puberty, Scaglia said.

Hay should be analyzed for nutritional value to determine which supplement and how much of it is needed for a 550-pound heifer to gain 1.5 pounds per day, he advised. With very poor quality hay, “there is nothing you can do to help that heifer accomplish that goal.”

A heifer’s weight at breeding time should be monitored, Scaglia said.

“A heifer needs to be gaining weight at the start of the breeding season, and she needs to keep gaining weight,” he said. Development of a productive female does not stop with the first pregnancy, and a cow reaches full maturity at five years.

Stan Dutile, LSU AgCenter county agent in Lafayette Parish, said medium-frame cows are the most efficient for a herd. It becomes more difficult for a cow to conceive if she is thin and not in proper body condition going into her second breeding season.

LSU AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell showed producers a test of different treatments for broomsedge in pastures.

Pasture with adequate fertilizer applications tends to suppress the weed, he said. “Broomsedge likes a low-fertility situation.”

The biggest surprise from the study was the effectiveness of glyphosate herbicide at 1.5 pints per acre applied in late April with a broadcast sprayer, Twidwell said. ?

Bruce Schultz


Minerals help in cattle reproduction

Injectable trace minerals may improve reproductive rates in cattle. This was one of several research projects cattle producers heard about at the LSU AgCenter beef cattle and forage field day on Oct. 16 at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria.

AgCenter reproductive physiologist Glen Gentry has conducted two studies looking at how trace minerals can affect pregnancy rates. In the first study, young heifers that were moved to the Dean Lee Research Station were run through a chute, and every other animal was given a shot of the minerals, which contain zinc, manganese, selenium and copper. The minerals seemed to play a role in reproductive performance.

“At the end of the breeding season, we had a difference of 30 percent impregnate rates of the animals that got the injections versus the ones that did not,” Gentry said.

Weight also can affect reproductive ability, so Gentry looked at weights at the time of injection. He said heifers that received the injections were lighter overall than those that did not.

Gentry conducted a larger study on the entire cow herd on the station. He said there was no significant difference in pregnancy weight, except with two-year-old heifers. Pregnancy rates were 20 percent higher in that population.

“The minerals seem to work better in younger animals,” he said. ?

Tobie Blanchard


Good weather helps sweet potato harvest

Favorable weather has helped Louisiana sweet potato producers have a successful harvest, according to Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station coordinator.

“The weather has cooperated with us this season. We’ve had some wet weather in the southern part of the state, but for the most part, we’ve been able to stay on track and get the crop in the shed,” Smith said.

While acreage is slightly higher than last year’s, it’s still near a historical all-time low, according to Smith. But, there are signs that the industry is rebounding.

“We think the trend is reversing. There are a lot of positive things going on in the industry. The processing sector has also brought some new blood into the industry, so we’re excited about the potential,” she said.

Myrl Sistrunk, AgCenter sweet potato specialist, said producers are seeing good yields in their fields. “I would say most producers are reporting around 450 to 500 bushels per acre. There have been a few reports of even higher yields,” he said.

Sistrunk said acreage is down significantly from what it was 10 years ago. “We are going to have right around 8,000 acres this year. That figure is less than half of what it was before the hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina and Rita) and 2008 (Gustav). Those wet years really hurt the growers,” he said.

While sweet potatoes can be profitable, they are costly to produce. “On average, sweet potatoes cost about $4,000 per acre, and about 40 to 50 percent of that input cost is directly related to the labor that is required to plant and harvest the crop,” Smith said.

The AgCenter has recently released two varieties, Orleans and Bayou Belle, with the hopes they will provide greater yields than Beauregard, which has been the industry mainstay since the late 1980s.

“Orleans is aimed at the fresh market. Producers will see a little yield bump and a more consistent quality, which translates to a better pack-out percentage. Bayou Belle is for the processing industry, and producers are realizing about a 20 percent yield increase when compared to varieties like Beauregard,” Smith said. ? 

Craig Gautreaux 

Brahman influence good for Louisiana cattle industry

The traditional stereotype for cattle with high Brahman influence has been that the meat is too tough. But with improved genetics, that is changing.


Research that began at the LSU AgCenter to evaluate the Brahman-influenced cattle for tenderness has developed into a program that has become national in scope.

For nearly three decades, beginning in the 1980s, now-retired LSU AgCenter researcher Don Franke conducted crossbreeding research with the Brahman breed.

More recently, Franke studied the meat quality of purebred Brahman steers and found that genetic markers could be used to identify those that will produce acceptable carcasses based on quality grade and tenderness.

AgCenter scientists agree that the industry is more accepting of carcasses with up to one-quarter Brahman breeding. The problem comes

“We’re part of the American Brahman Breeders Association’s National Carcass Evaluation,” said Matt Garcia, AgCenter animal scientist.

“The carcass scores from Louisiana steers improve every year.” The carcass reports on purebred Brahman steers sent to the feedlot in 2011 all graded choice, which is one level below prime, Garcia said.

Producers believe Brahman-influenced cattle take a price deduction at the sale barn, said LSU AgCenter economist Ross Pruitt.

“In reality, when those cattle hit the feedlots and they perform, the price for that animal will be passed on down to the person it was bought from,” Pruitt said.

According to the American Brahman Association, the breed is the first beef breed developed in the United States. It is ranked No. 1 in hybrid vigor, heat tolerance and efficiency compared with all other beef breeds. ?

Johnny Morgan

Researcher tries to make less salty foods still tasty

Changing people’s perceptions of how foods taste – or even how foods feel in the mouth – can help direct them to more healthful food choices, said Witoon Prinyawiwatkul, a researcher in the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences.

Prinyawiwatkul is leading a team of Ag- Center researchers evaluating how people respond to sensory differences to assess the effectiveness of changing sodium content in processed foods. They’re studying how different approaches to modifying the salt content in foods can improve the healthfulness of the food while reducing the amount of sodium.

Americans consume unhealthy amounts of sodium, mostly in the form of salt, or sodium chloride, Prinyawiwatkul said. Although sodium is a critical element in the human body for such functions as retaining fluids, balancing electrolytes and controlling nerve function, too much is unhealthy.

“It’s a silent killer,” Prinyawiwatkul said. Citing results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prinyawiwatkul said more than 90 percent of Americans consume more sodium than the recommended intake. More than 65 percent of the sodium comes from processed foods and other retail products, 25 percent is consumed in restaurants, and the remaining 10 percent is added by consumers.

The solution to this problem is reducing sodium intake in the diet.

“We can use different salts, such as potassium chloride, or simply reduce sodium consumption through a stepwise approach or both,” Prinyawiwatkul said.

Potassium chloride is the most common salt substitute, but when used at high concentrations, it imparts bitterness and a metallic aftertaste. The AgCenter researchers use sensory trials to measure consumer attitudes to taste, texture and appeal of foods with modified salt content.

In one study, researcher Damir Torrico is blending emulsions of oil and water in a process similar to making mayonnaise to see if the size of the oil droplets affects the saltiness and bitterness of the product. While the size of the oil droplet had no effect on saltiness, Torrico discovered the emulsion suppressed the bitterness of potassium chloride, which wasn’t observed in a water solution. He now is looking at replacing some of the sodium with potassium to maintain saltiness while adding another compound to block the bitterness of the potassium.

“We’re adding potassium chloride along with bitterness suppressors to see if we can impart saltiness with minimal bitterness,” Prinyawiwatkul said. “We also want to reduce sodium and manipulate the taste bud receptors by modifying the emulsion characteristics.”

In another study, Kennet Carabante and Chuck Boeneke are focusing on reducing the sodium content of cheddar cheese. Working in the AgCenter creamery, the researchers have changed the sodium content in typical cheddar cheese recipes to find out how the changes affect cheese quality. They have successfully produced low-sodium cheese by replacing a portion of the sodium chloride with potassium chloride and a bitterness blocker. ?

Rick Bogren

AgMagic exhibit wows at Shreveport State Fair

Thanks to the LSU AgCenter’s AgMagic exhibit, students Jamaria Clark and Jordan Fuller went on a cotton harvesting tour during the 2014 State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport Oct. 23.

“I felt like I was driving the tractor,” said Clark, a fourth grader.

“Yeah,” said Fuller, a seventh grader. “It was pretty cool.”

The combine Clark and Fuller are referring to was one of the highlights in the exhibit. A computer screen inside the combine’s cab showed the combine traveling through a cotton field.

“I like watching the tractor as it goes through the field on the screen,” Clark said.

AgMagic is an interactive set of exhibits designed to show people where their food and fiber comes from, said Karen Martin, 4-H coordinator for the AgCenter’s Northwest Region.

Each year, exhibits are set up to show people how products used every day come from forests, field crops and livestock produced by Louisiana farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. Featured crops are displayed in various stages of development, and the importance of interaction between agriculture, the environment and society at large are highlighted.

In the World of Wonder area, Ricky Kilpatrick, LSU AgCenter forestry agent, had information about camping, fishing, forestry, hiking, wildlife and other outdoor activities available.

At the animal exhibit area, visitors could watch chicks hatch.

“We want the youth to understand food that is bought in grocery stores comes from a farm first,” said Gary Stockton, an AgCenter agent in Lincoln Parish.

Other exhibits provided information about biofuels, compost, farmers markets, 4-H and healthy eating. ?

A. Denise Attaway

These articles were published in the fall 2014 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.

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