Decreasing costs by increasing efficiency on cattle operations was the focus of the LSU AgCenter’s Rosepine Research Station field day May 1. More than 100 people attended the event at the research station in Vernon Parish.

“It’s a scary time for a lot of beef producers,” said Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for Extension.

Cattle owners have found the prosperous times of just a few years ago have been replaced by $4-a-gallon diesel and increasing feed and fertilizer prices.

David Sanson, LSU AgCenter cattle researcher, told producers they can do simple things to save money, such as protecting hay bales by covering them with tarps or using a building. He said leaving hay exposed to the elements will result in a 25 percent loss.

Sanson also said producers should determine optimum times for cutting hay and fertilizing ryegrass to improve efficiency.

Jason Rowntree, LSU AgCenter assistant professor of animal science, said producers can become more efficient by establishing goals such as defined breeding and calving seasons. That will result in a definitive weaning schedule.

But cattle producers looking to cut costs should continue animal health measures, such as de-worming and other essential precautions.

Paul Morris, LSU AgCenter county agent in Sabine Parish, said poultry litter is a good alternative to expensive fertilizer. However, producers have to keep in mind that the material can produce an offensive odor, particularly when it is wet. That could upset neighbors.

In addition, the litter should be analyzed for its nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and moisture content. Morris said litter’s makeup is affected by the type of flock that generated the material. Litter produced by broilers, layers and pullets have different compositions.

Paperwork should indicating where the litter was obtained and the weather conditions when it was applied.

J Stevens, LSU AgCenter soils specialist, said soil compaction from animal traffic can cause soil to be impermeable to moisture. The condition can be corrected with devices made to aerate the soil.

Stevens also said despite high fertilizer prices, now is not the time to skip soil testing.

Buddy Pitman, LSU AgCenter forage researcher, showed field day participants a stand of Texas bluegrass. He said the plant will support cow-calf production in the spring, but ryegrass is better for a stocker operation. Texas bluegrass responds well to high nitrogen in chicken litter.

The plant can be difficult to establish and it can take three to four years to make a good stand. Also, because it’s different from their normal diet, cattle must learn to eat it. However, said Pitman, it’s a good alternative to expensive winter feed.

Seed is not yet available. “We hope it will be in the next year or so.”