Linda Benedict, Schultz, Bruce
Cattle research in Louisiana has a long and storied past, and it’s only fitting since some of the first Brahman cattle brought to the United States ended up in Louisiana.
In 1854, the British government presented two Brahman bulls to sugar and cotton farmer Richard Barrow of St. Francisville, who had helped teach cotton and sugarcane production to British officials establishing those crops in India. The Barrow cattle would achieve recognition, and their fame would soon spread around the globe. As early as 1860, Brahman cattle that probably originated from the Barrow cattle were shipped to Texas.
David Morrison, retired LSU AgCenter assistant vice chancellor for animal research, said Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station scientists helped Louisiana lead the rest of the nation with crossbreeding and cattle genetics. The focus was and continues to be adaptability of cattle to Louisiana’s harsh summers and heavy insect pressure, followed by beef tenderness.
The Brangus breed was developed around 1932 from Angus and Brahman cattle by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists at the Livestock Experiment Farm, later to become the Iberia Research Station in Jeanerette. Brangus cattle are 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Angus. After the USDA work, a group of individuals used the data and produced the commercial line of the Brangus breed. From that combination, several others were developed including Braford, Santa Gertrudis and Beefmaster.
Morrison said the LSU AgCenter has made huge contributions to the field of assisted reproductive technology. Beginning in the 1970s, animal scientist Robert Godke led efforts in reproductive biology that resulted in groundbreaking research on embryo transfers, enabling owners of high quality cows to obtain several calves from the same mother.
The work of John Chandler enabled cattle producers to get a better idea if their bulls are more likely to sire male or female calves.
In the field of cattle nutrition, the LSU AgCenter has had a significant impact on forages and grazing management, Morrison said.
Doyle Chambers, LSU AgCenter animal breeder, showed it is possible to produce cattle year-round on forages, using cool-season annuals and warmseason perennials.
Morrison said he was part of a team that worked on a body condition scoring system to help determine if cows are healthy enough for breeding.
Cattle research is expensive because large numbers of cattle are needed to obtain results and because cows are only able to have one calf per year. Multiple locations are necessary to get a more comprehensive picture for a research project, and he said a discovery is usually based on data and findings from several previously conducted studies. “One study leads to another and another study before you get an answer,” Morrison said.
Sid Derouen, LSU AgCenter cattle researcher, said studies have been conducted by LSU AgCenter professors to find out if other tropically adapted breeds are suitable for Louisiana. So far, no strong alternatives to the Brahman have been found, he said.
“The goal has been to replace some of the Brahman to get more tenderness,” Morrison said. “That research still has more potential.”
Derouen said research can be credited for helping producers raise calves that are bigger and healthier than 30 years ago. “Our production has increased, and the major part of that has been the research.”
Derouen said future research will focus on the core issues of breeding, nutrition and food safety.
Guillermo Scaglia, LSU AgCenter cattle nutritionist, said research will stress efficiency. “The focus is on trying to make the whole industry more efficient in its use of resources. We need to be more sustainable in our production system.”
Bruce Schultz, Assistant Communications Specialist, Communications, LSU AgCenter, Crowley, La
(This article was published in the spring 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.)