Carrie Castille, Morgan, Donna S., Van Osdell, Mary Ann, Lavergne, Theresia
News Release Distributed 05/21/07
Having his farm chosen as one of the 13 model farms across the state in the LSU AgCenter’s Master Farmer program helps Gary Lirette of Marthaville “do the right things.”
Lirette manages six broiler houses – each carrying 6.5 flocks per year, each flock producing more than 420,000 broilers – on two separate farmsteads along with more than 100 acres of hay meadows and 140 acres of forest.
Lirette said participation in the Master Farmer program places his farm under extra scrutiny, “which is good. Most farmers want to do the right thing managing their land,” he said.
His spread was visited by about 45 poultry, cattle and forage producers recently to help them learn about water quality, litter spreading and biosecurity issues.
Being named a model farm means it must be occasionally visited as part of the curriculum for the Master Farmer program, which is an environmental education program designed to help farmers and ranchers identify and adopt best management practices.
The program has three phases, said Dr. Carrie Castille, who coordinates environmental education programs for the LSU AgCenter. The first phase involves eight hours of classroom instruction. The second phase is a visit to a model farm. And the third phase is development of an individualized conservation plan for the participant’s farm.
After successful completion of all three phases, the farmers are awarded Master Farmer status. Last year, 13 farmers were awarded Master Farmer status during the 2006 Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation convention in New Orleans. This year another 50 will be given that recognition at the 2007 convention, also in New Orleans, on June 22.
Lirette said each of his two farmsteads has its own litter barn and composter. The litter is applied to the hay fields and pastures as needed and stored in the barn until weather permits use or it is sold.
“We produce much more than we can use,” Lirette said. “Ours goes to Abbeville for the rice fields and pastureland in Shreveport.”
Not having been a farmer his whole life, Lirette praised those who work the land or raise cattle. He cited his particular farming issues over the years as higher costs for electricity and insurance, weed control, biosecurity and technology.
Protecting your flock or herd against common diseases is an important part of management, said LSU AgCenter specialist Dr. Theresia Lavergne, associate professor of poultry in the School of Animal Sciences.
People are the No. 1 means of transferring disease. Human feet, hands, clothing and hair can carry organisms that can be transmitted. Animals shed pathogens that someone else can pick up and get sick from.
“Manure, urine, nasal secretions and blood can all spread pathogens,” Lavergne said.
Practicing measures to prevent the spread of disease include using a reliable source for feed, managing flies and mosquitoes, controlling insects and rodents, preventing and controlling contact with strays and wildlife, and vehicle sanitation.
Litter should be stored away from poultry houses. Sharing of equipment should be avoided and equipment should be washed and disinfected, said Lavergne.
As part of the model farm, Lirette has allowed the AgCenter access to set up three water quality monitoring stations in the vegetative buffer near the creek in one of the fields.
Donna Morgan, LSU AgCenter model farm coordinator, said she receives a text message on her phone when it rains on the stations. She then has 48 hours to retrieve and return the samples that monitor the runoff from the hayfield where litter is being spread. The stations are at varying setbacks and the samples are sent to a lab in Baton Rouge to determine sediment, nitrates, phosphates and biological oxygen demand. She said nothing is out of range so far on Lirette’s land.
Morgan said Lirette’s is the only poultry sampler at this time, and more operations in North Louisiana are welcomed.
Model farms are selected based on the watersheds and the crops and livestock produced in those areas. By offering a variety of different model farms, the program attempts to provide Master Farmer participants a chance to see how various practices are implemented on farms similar to theirs.
Contacts: Carrie Castille at (225) 578-2906, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna Morgan at (318) 613-9278, or email@example.com
Theresia Lavergne at (225) 578-2219, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or email@example.com