(11/02/21) ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — Dozens of beef cattle producers gathered to hear about the latest developments in the Louisiana beef industry at the Acadiana Area Beef Cattle Field Day held Oct. 23 in St. Martinville.
Luke Laborde, interim LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the LSU College of Agriculture, addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of the beef cattle industry for the local and state economies.
“Just in the Acadiana area, the beef industry generates about $58 million a year in economic impact,” Laborde said. “Across the state, that grows to almost $400 million dollars.”
The event was held as a joint venture among the LSU AgCenter, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — which hosted the event at its Cade Research Farm — the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association and the Louisiana Grassland and Forage Council.
Laborde, an Avoyelles Parish cattle owner, reiterated the AgCenter’s commitment to the hardworking producers of Louisiana’s agricultural enterprises.
“What we’re doing is important not only in learning about how we can improve our own production, but what we do is important for feeding our people and for creating jobs that support the other operations we do,” he said.
The producers — who hailed primarily from Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin and Vermilion Parishes — were presented with up-to-date beef market projections from AgCenter Southwest Region director and agricultural economist Kurt Guidry. He shared some positive news about speculation that beef prices will increase, but cautioned that the upward trend will not happen overnight.
“The general consensus is that the expectation is that prices will be slowly improving over the next two to three years,” Guidry said. “That’s the good news.”
The bad news? Rising input costs, such as those associated with feed, fuel and fertilizer, have not waited for beef prices to improve, Guidry said.
“When you look at margins — even though we’re projecting prices to move higher — those margins will be extremely tight, particularly until we get to see some significant improvement in price into 2022 and 2023 as currently projected,” he said.
A positive market trend for cattle producers, Guidry said, is flat growth in cattle market inventory that can keep prices from falling. This trend is due in part to severe drought conditions that are causing farmers in the western half of the continental U.S. to decrease herd populations via forced liquidations.
AgCenter beef cattle researcher Guillermo Scaglia presented information on how producers can market their products locally. He explained the importance of educating consumers on carcass weights and where the retail cuts of beef are sourced.
“Something that you as a producer need to do is explain to consumers what beef is and where it comes from,” Scaglia said. “There’s a lot of teaching to do.”
Scaglia said there are ways of diversifying beef product offerings to fit consumers’ needs. Producers can commercialize what they are producing by selling frozen beef in bundles that fulfill the consumers’ needs. He stressed that keys to marketing beef are knowing what the consumers want, finding a processor and knowing the cost of production.
“Marketing is not easy,” Scaglia said. “Word of mouth, personal networks, family, friends — start there. Start small.”
Scaglia touted social media networks as a marketing tool to distribute flyers, price lists, photos and information about a producer’s particular operation. With the right information, he said, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be valuable when searching for a consumer base.
“You need to tell your story,” Scaglia said. “You need to say what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Tell them about your family. Tell them about your cows and how happy they are.”
Other presenters included:
— LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Christine Navarre, who demonstrated proper handling and restraint techniques that protect both the animal and the handler when providing medical care or vaccines to cattle. Navarre, who teaches producers about the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines, displayed equipment and techniques that she uses to effectively and safely handle cattle that will eventually sold for slaughter.
— AgCenter forage crop expert Ed Twidwell, who presented pasture test plot data that showed the importance of using fertilizers to replace soil nutrients. To determine which nutrients a producer may need to apply in fertilizer form, AgCenter agent Blair Hebert demonstrated how to take soil samples in pastures and how to submit those samples to the AgCenter for testing.
— AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan, who presented results from several on-site herbicide field tests. Strahan stressed the importance of establishing strong stands of bermudagrass to stave off the propagation of weed species such as Vaseygrass. In one field test, Strahan demonstrated the effectiveness of the Weed Wiper — a new herbicide-free weed eradication implement designed by GrassWorks Manufacturing, of Lincoln, Arkansas.
LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Christine Navarre demonstrates how to use vaccination equipment at the Acadiana Area Beef Cattle Field Day on Oct. 23.
AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan shares his observations of field trials of several herbicide blends at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cade Research Farm. Derek Albert/LSU AgCenter
AgCenter forage crop expert Ed Twidwell discusses the importance of applying fertilizers to pastures to replenish soil nutrients at the Acadiana Area Beef Cattle Field Day. Derek Albert/LSU AgCenter
Bobby Unberson, center, and Linda Reed, right, of GrassWorks Manufacturing describe how their new product — the Weed Wiper — helps rid pastures and hay fields of unwanted weeds without the extensive use of chemical herbicides.