Andrew L. Granger, Faulk, Lee, Dutile, Stanley J., Deshotel, Vincent, Holmes, Jason E.
Andrew Granger, A. Lee Faulk, Vince Deshotel, Jason Holmes and Stan Dutile
Extension beef and forage field days are a collection of educational activities and programs designed to improve management practices by farmers and ranchers. Practices such as selection of replacement stock, cost-benefit analysis of feedstuffs and stress-free cattle handling are demonstrated and discussed at each of these events.
Planning field days is an important step for success. Planning starts with our clientele. Advisory meetings are a formal time to get input from ranchers; however, daily contact, cattlemen’s meetings and farm visits help identify issues and obstacles to profitability that need to be addressed. Also, input from researchers and specialists offers insight into statewide and national beef cattle concerns. Finally, a committee approach to finalizing topics and appropriate teaching methods is often used.
The formula is similar at most cattle field days. Field days are hosted by extension agents and research stations throughout the state. Most are joint efforts by groups of agents, research scientists and on-campus faculty. In general, field days include field demonstrations and subject matter presentations. Because most cattle ranchers are part time, field days are often scheduled for weekends or evenings. A meal is usually served, and there may be door prizes or other incentives for attending. Sponsorships from local vendors are instrumental in providing meals and door prize items.
Field demonstrations offer hands-on and experiential learning methods. Most field days will include weed control demonstrations, which highlight herbicide comparisons. Forage varieties, fertilization, grazing management techniques and planting methods all work well as a field demonstration. Farmers can see for themselves the results of those comparisons when presented in the field side by side.
Extension agents, specialists and researchers utilize field days, along with other beef cattle programs, to highlight the importance of soil and forage management in beef cattle production. It is often said that cattlemen and women must first be “grass farmers” to be successful in Louisiana’s cattle industry.
Hands-on demonstrations of critical management techniques are often presented in the field at these cattle events. Topics such as preferred methods of castration, dehorning, tube feeding baby calves and stress-free cattle handling have all been demonstrated with live cattle and commonly available facilities. In addition to demonstrating traditional management techniques, field days afford a great opportunity to illustrate and discuss emerging technologies in the beef cattle industry. New techniques and technologies are first tested at research stations before being demonstrated and taught to producers. Both traditional and emerging techniques generally have a direct influence on the profitability of our farms and ranches, and these demonstrations allow cattle ranchers to see what is necessary for successful adoption of these practices.
Contests that encourage hands-on learning have been used to positive effect on many occasions. Hay judging, heifer selection, matching calf quality to marketing channel, EPD (expected progeny differences) judging and cow condition scoring have made excellent contests. Producers’ efforts are scored and awards presented. Contests are a fun way to encourage participation, as well as learn and test participants’ knowledge.
Subject matter presentations are wide ranging and are used to cover almost any subject of importance to cattle ranchers. Market conditions and outlook are almost always included in these presentations. Key issues are often included, such as consumer preferences or changing state and federal laws that affect cattle producers and production.
Much like emerging management techniques, farmers often have questions about the effectiveness and economics of new products. Product testing at research stations, as well as through on-farm extension demonstrations, offers insights into product efficacy. Unbiased research results from the use of these products are explained, and cost-benefit information is presented so that farmers can make decisions on their use.
Comparisons of feed ingredients to highlight cost and nutritive value are appreciated by our audiences. Nutrition costs make up about 70% of total costs of a cattle farm and managing them properly is key to sustainability. Use of bulk feeds and byproducts have been emphasized as ways to cut supplement costs. Soil testing and nitrogen fertilization managements have been stressed for efficient forage production.
Field days are a time-honored method for bringing cattle ranchers together to discuss, learn and gain skills. These programs have been effective in helping to ensure continued profitability and sustainability. Hosting these field days throughout the state at different times of the year provides producers with the opportunity to view, learn and discuss critical beef cattle and forage management strategies. Extension agents, specialists and researchers strive to present information that will serve to enhance individual beef cattle operations within Louisiana.
Andrew Granger is a livestock agent in Vermilion Parish. A. Lee Faulk is an associate extension agent in the Northwest Region. Vince Deshotel is a livestock agent in the Central Region. Jason E. Holmes is a livestock specialist in the Northeast Region, and Stan Dutile is a livestock agent in Lafayette Parish.
This article appeared in the fall 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.
Andrew Granger, AgCenter livestock agent in Vermilion Parish, speaks at a beef and forage field day. Photo by Bruce Schultz
LSU AgCenter livestock agent Stan Dutile shows how to administer a dewormer during a field day. LSU AgCenter file photo
Stuart Gauthier, AgCenter Extension agent in St. Martin Parish, speaks at a beef and forage field day. LSU AgCenter file photo