AMITE, La. – Being good stewards of the land and producing a quality beef product is a goal of cattle producers.
But getting into the business requires more than a lot of beef cattle knowledge. It requires some major investments before the business even opens, according to some of the recent graduates of the LSU AgCenter Master Cattleman program.
The program is designed to help producers who want to enhance the profitability of their beef operations and the quality of their cattle, said LSU AgCenter agent Whitney Wallace from Tangipahoa Parish, who coordinated the class.
Cattle producers in the Florida parishes came to Amite each Tuesday night from 6-9 p.m. for the LSU AgCenter’s Master Cattleman program that began on Aug. 11 and ended Oct. 13.
“The 42 participants who successfully completed the course received a Master Cattleman cap and a metal farm sign to signify endorsement,” Wallace said. “Also, participants will receive the Beef Quality Assurance certification.”
Since 2004, the AgCenter has provided this training to people who may have not grown up on a farm or who decide on a hobby after retirement.
The Master Cattleman program involves 10 sessions covering a wide range of material about beef production.
Classes are hosted around the state by local AgCenter extension agents, and interested producers should contact their local agent for more information, Wallace said.
Nicholas Collins drove from Pointe Coupee Parish every Tuesday evening to attend the class. He said he had heard a lot about it and wanted to become certified.
“I only have 10 cows right now, but I want to get up to about 45 head,” he said. “If you think you know something about the business, when you come here those thoughts will be turned completely around.”
The commodity-specific program gives beef producers the tools they need in order to implement important beef cattle best management practices, Wallace said.
It also allows participants further integration into farm management and marketing components related to beef production.
“Upon completion of the program, participants should be able to show more profitability while also being good stewards of the land,” Wallace said.
To become a certified Louisiana Master Cattleman, one must complete 30 hours of instruction, which includes the national Beef Quality Assurance Certification, Wallace said. “The 30 hours consists of 10 three-hour blocks of instruction on: animal health, nutrition, reproduction, breeding and selection, animal handling, Beef Quality Assurance, pasture agronomy, weed management, economics and marketing.”
Speakers during the 10-weeks of the program include LSU specialists and beef industry representatives from every area of beef cattle production, said LSU AgCenter specialist Gary Hay, who coordinated the program with Wallace.
Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain, who was the guest speaker for the graduation program, told the group there will be more and more rules and regulations coming, so it is important to understand the issues.
“Other states look to us as the model for their Master Cattleman programs,” he said. “You’ve learned important things like, why nutrition is important and why vaccine is cheap and disease is expensive.”
Strain said prices are down a little for beef right now, but cattle are still a solid investment.
“People ask me how long cattle are going to be worth money,” Strain said. “And I tell them until the end of our days.”
In 2014, the beef cattle industry in Louisiana had 433,050 beef cows with a reported 7,379 producers, according to the AgCenter Louisiana Ag Summary. Gross farm value from beef cattle increased from $589.6 million in 2013 to $795.3 million in 2014, making it the second-largest food animal industry and one of the top five agricultural industries in the state.