Scientists from the LSU AgCenter and Mississippi State University shared findings from research on forage and feed at a Southeast Research Station field day on April 5.
Highlights of the field day included ways to improve livestock nutrition programs and increase income that ranged from enhanced pasture management to replacing corn in the animal’s diet with byproducts like soy hulls and citrus pulp, according to Mike McCormick, nutritionist and resident coordinator at the station.
One area of keen interest to the dairy producers was the possibility of a 10-fold increase in their profit margin by keeping dairy bull calves a little longer than normal.
“This project is to help generate some additional income for some of these dairies that are kind of strapped,” McCormick said. “The bull calf is one that doesn’t bring a lot of income. If a guy has 50 bull calves, he might get $500-$1,000 for all of them.”
By using a small acreage of land and supplementing feed with some fairly inexpensive byproducts, the goal is to increase the income from those same 50 calves to $5,000 to $10,000.
McCormick has been supplementing citrus pulp, soy hull pellets and whole cotton seeds to sharply increase weight gain, which means more money in the pocket of the producers because these feeds are considerably cheaper than corn and soybean meal.
When discussing forage for cattle, the thought of planting mustard, turnips and other types of greens may not come to mind, but LSU AgCenter agronomist Kun-Jun Han is doing just that as a dual-purpose forage crop in beef and dairy production.
“We can graze it from early winter until spring. We can cut it for hay after it goes into the heading stage, and we can use it for soil renovation,” Han said.
Han’s research so far has shown that canola is proving to be the best of the plants for a number of reasons.
“First is the high protein, which ranges from 15-18 percent. Then there’s its high digestibility factor,” Han said. “And added to these benefits is the fact that we are able to plant a second crop of the canola after the first crop matures.”
One problem that continues to plague cattle producers when making their first cutting of bermudagrass hay is an abundance of winter annual weeds such as clovers, curly dock and ryegrass, said LSU AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell.
“We’ve found that you really need to get an early start on these weeds if you want to be effective,” Twidwell said. “We put these treatments out on Feb. 14, which may seem kind of early, but we want to do that while the bermudagrass is still dormant.”
Twidwell said he put out several different herbicides, and he found that the most effective treatment was with Pastora, which is a relatively new chemical.
Mississippi State University researcher Daniel Rivera discussed his findings of a study that looked at how administering feed supplements affected pasture quality.
“The main goal of this study was to look at the efficiency of nitrogen utilization by cattle,” Rivera said. “We’re looking at the most efficient way to deliver nitrogen to the pasture, whether by giving supplements to the cattle or by fertilizing the pasture.”
In terms of nitrogen replacement, he found that feed supplements might be an alternative. However, he said this is only part of the story because potassium and phosphorus were not looked at.
For the first time in a number of years, the futures price of corn is below $7 per bushel, according to LSU AgCenter economist Ross Pruitt.
“That’s good news for producers, but the bad news is that corn is not in the ground, and it hasn’t been harvested yet,” Pruitt said. “So don’t get your hopes up just yet.”
Corn acreage is up this year. If the crop is good, prices should be favorable for beef and dairy farmers who depend heavily on corn for feed.
(This article was published in the winter 2013 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)