Recent droughts have forced producers to use carryover hay from previous years or purchase lesser-quality hay, and the LSU AgCenter is looking for ways to increase feed efficiency.

Providing a liquid protein supplement applied into a bale showed improvements in cattle’s hay intake with slightly less hay waste, Ryon Walker, LSU AgCenter cattle researcher, told the 100 attendees at a Sept. 15 field day at the Hill Farm Research Station.

“With today’s current hay prices, a 2.9 percent difference in hay waste will cost a producer with 100 cows 5.8 tons of hay or $870 per year,” Walker said. His research last winter evaluated efficiency and performance of beef cows fed a liquid-base protein supplement or dried distillers grains plus other materials.

In an extremely dry year such as this, any growing forage may not be sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of grazing livestock, Buddy Pitman, LSU AgCenter forage specialist.

Applying nitrogen fertilizer to Bermuda grass pastures in early September can provide deferred grazing in late fall or early winter that is often comparable in nutritive value to hay produced from this forage before frost. 

Walker also reported his research for the next four years will focus on cow size and its effects on feed, fertility and production efficiency in beef production systems in Louisiana.   

“Increases in cow size can negatively impact returns due to the maintenance requirements of a larger cow, but to what measures is unknown,” Walker said. “Identifying and utilizing tools to evaluate those relationships will be critical to keeping a beef producer’s costs manageable by incorporating management practices to reduce input cost during times of depressed markets.” 

Walker’s project will study differences in feed efficiency and reproductive efficiency in females and evaluate management strategies that affect feed intake and animal size. “This information will allow producers to identify efficiencies within the cow herd and make those appropriate culling decisions based on feed efficiency and offspring performance, ultimately increasing net profit per cow per year.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates world population will grow by 2.4 billion people by 2050, so food production will have to increase by 70 percent. “We have to adopt efficient ways to do this,” said Walker.

Other research at the Hill Farm Research Station is exploring how switchgrass, a plant identified by decades of research as a model bioenergy crop, can be cultivated between rows of the abundant pine trees of Louisiana.

Louisiana has a long growing season for a wide variety of vegetation, so the state has great potential to add plants for biofuels to its inventory of domestic fuel sources, said Mike Blazier, LSU AgCenter forester.

“Switchgrass grows well with relatively low nutrient and water needs and has high energy content,” Blazier explained. “It grows well under moderate shading in natural ecosystems, so there is potential to grow switchgrass within the abundant forests of Louisiana.

 

“The economic benefit to landowners, should such a process prove feasible, is diversification of revenue sources from their land and reduction of the risk of entering the biofuel market.” 

Bill Owens, LSU AgCenter researcher, summarized the evaluation of tube heaters versus brooder heaters in poultry houses. Preliminary information from the first year of the study indicates tube heaters cost $824 less per house to operate for five flocks.

Tube heaters, which are propane- or natural gas-fired and hang near the ceiling of a chicken house, are new to the poultry industry. But they are more expensive to install. Continued research will determine the cost of heater maintenance.

Future plans for the poultry houses at the Hill Farm station include a Web-site that will provide real-time data on temperature, humidity, static pressure and other house parameters along with weekly summaries of propane and electric use and water consumption.

A new litter barn will be used for studies on the antimicrobial susceptibility of poultry organisms and darkling beetle control.

David Morrison, LSU AgCenter assistant vice chancellor, gave the event’s keynote address, saying the AgCenter has faced a budget plight but that Hill Farm has core and priority programs.