Livestock Agents Expand Beef Cattle Programming Virtually

Jason E. Holmes, Edwards, Ashley K, Faulk, Lee, Deshotel, Vincent

The logo of Louisiana Agriculture magazine is imposed upon a white background.

Jason E. Holmes, Vince Deshotel, Ashley K. Edwards and A. Lee Faulk

In recent years we have been faced with the inability to hold face-to-face events. In response, LSU AgCenter livestock specialists and agents turned to social media platforms to ensure continued interaction with producers and industry members.

Virtual programming and social media offer extension professionals the ability to reach out to new audiences, provide professional guidance and direction and encourage peer-to-peer interactions while meeting the land-grant extension mission of increasing knowledge, changing behavior and assessing the impacts of their programmatic efforts.

Humble Beginnings … During a Pandemic

On April 14, 2020, LSU AgCenter specialists and agents hosted a live webinar entitled “Sustainability during Turbulent Markets.” During this event, agents spoke on strategies intended to help guide producers through the chaos of the pandemic and volatile cattle markets.

Success of this initial webinar prompted the creation of the online Beef Brunch Educational Series to maintain engagement with beef cattle producers and provide information on key management practices. To achieve this, we utilize agents, specialists and researchers from within the LSU AgCenter, as well as from neighboring land-grant universities.

Live monthly webinars are now hosted at 10:30 AM on the second Tuesday of each month, offering producers the opportunity to engage with presenters. Webinars are also recorded and distributed online through the LSU AgCenter website, LSU AgCenter-Livestock YouTube channel and podcast platforms such as Apple, Google and Spotify.

A Unique Addition

Dynamic markets and numerous weather events illustrated an increased need to maintain consistent engagement and provide current updates. This led to the addition of biweekly news updates as part of the Beef Brunch Educational Series. News updates began on April 24, 2020, and are now released every other Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. on the same video and podcast platforms as the webinars. They feature weather and pasture conditions throughout the state, a market outlook for cattle and feedstuffs, management tips, events and current topics in the beef industry.

Virtual Field Days

Beef cattle and forage field days serve as foundational programs for extension professionals. The inability to host these in-person led to the filming of educational videos to continue providing field day content to producers. Importantly, virtual field days extended the reach of this content to more producers than would traditionally be unable to attend in-person. Continued enthusiasm shown for our virtual field days even after returning to traditional in-person events has been greatly appreciated.

Developing Hybrid Programs

Success of the virtual field days and Beef Brunch Educational Series sparked ideas for utilizing a hybrid format of online learning coupled with in-person workshops. The Beginner Cattleman Program launched in the spring of 2021 and capitalized on this format. Participants can view pre-recorded lectures and complete quizzes online to gain background information prior to workshops. This affords more time for discussion and hands-on demonstrations during the workshop. At the same time, it increases the amount of educational content provided while reducing the number of days participants need to take off work to attend workshops.

Looking Forward

Hosting workshops, seminars, field days and other in-person events will continue to serve fundamental roles of the Cooperative Extension Service, particularly in demonstrating hands-on management techniques and cultivating communication with producers. However, in an ever-changing society, extension professionals also recognize and respect the need to reach clientele through virtual formatting. Virtual presentations, publications and platforms afford the opportunity to expand upon current programming efforts to not only reach new and larger audiences but also to enhance current teaching methods.

Jason E. Holmes is a livestock specialist for the Northeast Region. Vince Deshotel is a livestock agent for the Central Region. Ashley K. Edwards is the statewide extension livestock specialist based in Alexandria. A. Lee Faulk is an associate livestock agent for the Northwest Region.

This article appeared in the fall 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.

An advertisement shows a smartphone and pictures of cows.

An advertisement promoting online, bi-weekly news updates for cattle producers. The updates feature weather and pasture conditions throughout the state, a market outlook for cattle and feedstuffs, management tips, events and current topics in the beef industry. Photo Provided by Jason Holmes

Two men stand before a table of meat while another person records them with a video camera.

Jason Holmes (left) and Manuel “Boo” Persica, research associate and LSU Meat Laboratory manager, conduct one of their monthly webinars, titled “Beef for the Holidays.” Photo by Ashley K. Edwards

12/15/2022 9:55:27 PM
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