Michael E. McCormick, LeBlanc, Brian D., Morgan, Johnny W.
FRANKLINTON – Researchers at the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Research Station here discussed several new projects and changes in the Louisiana dairy industry at their annual Dairy Field Day last week (March 31).
One of the latest research projects at the station involves a wastewater management system that includes lagoons combined with wetlands to help clean the wastewater from dairy operations.
LSU AgCenter water quality specialist Dr. Brian LeBlanc said the project is designed to determine if the different plants used to absorb nutrients will produce water safe enough to release into rivers and streams after it moves through the wetlands stage of the process.
"We started to work on this lagoon system a couple of years ago to position the LSU AgCenter for future potential regulations that might come down from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency or some other regulatory agency," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc, who works in the Lake Pontchartrain watershed area, said the system is different from what dairy farmers typically use now, because it includes a second set of lagoons and the wetlands area.
"The main purpose of this study is to look at other options to treat dairy waste," LeBlanc said, adding, "Dairy farmers normally pump their waste into one lagoon, and the longer it stays in there, the more treatment occurs. Hopefully our constructed wetlands will prove to be a cost-effective alternative to take out the excessive nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen."
The project is funded in part by an initiative started by Sen. David Vitter that is known as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Program.
"This study could have a direct impact on rivers and streams in our area by providing the dairy industry with more options to treat dairy waste," LeBlanc stressed.
In addition to the reports on the wastewater studies, Tony Beaubouef from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service also covered federal funding available for dairy lagoons and soil conservation practices.
Although overcast skies and rain prevented field day participants from actually taking the planned hayrides into the fields to view research plots and hear about research results, scientists still delivered the information to them in an indoor setting.
The topics covered also included mastitis and milk quality, phosphorus supplementation for lactating dairy cows, variations in the ratio of male to female Holstein calves, ryegrass pasture management, forage budgeting techniques and ryegrass bale silage production.
Dr. Mike McCormick, LSU AgCenter professor and resident coordinator at the Southeast Research Station near Franklinton, said the 80 or so people who participated in the field day seemed much more upbeat despite the weather.
McCormick said the attitude among dairy farmers and others in the industry can be attributed to the spirit of change being experienced in the Louisiana dairy industry.
"For the past 12 months, the price that farmers have been getting for their milk has been a little higher than it’s been over the past five years, so the dairymen are a little bit better off now than they were two or three years ago," McCormick said.
As for other changes in the industry, McCormick also talked about ways Louisiana dairy producers can improve their profitability.
"The producers are realizing that they have to increase the size of their operations and improve the technology in their operations to stay competitive with producers in other parts of the country," he said.
McCormick said the LSU AgCenter is at the forefront of helping producers in the area to make these changes. Among the latest change is the creation of a dairy response team to work more closely with farmers – and the assignment of two longtime county agents from the area to that team.
Those team members are LSU AgCenter county agents Aubrey Posey of Washington Parish and Dr. Ronnie Bardwell of St. Helena Parish.
"Each of them has specialties," McCormick said, stressing that they will work with farmers across the area. "Aubrey is very good in milk quality and that sort of thing, and Ronnie is very good in forages.
"Overall, they will help to give us more of a rapid response to problems and issues."
Contacts: Mike McCormick at (985) 839-2322 or email@example.com
Brian LeBlanc at (985) 543-4129 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or email@example.com