Louisiana cattle owners stand to benefit from the Texas drought because ranchers in the Lone Star State are selling cattle and will eventually have to restock, cattle experts said at the Sept. 17 Acadiana cattle field day.

Ross Pruitt, LSU AgCenter economist, said 23 percent more beef cows have been slaughtered in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas so far this year compared with 2010, contributing to a 4 percent increase nationally in beef cow slaughter.

The Texas drought will create a demand for Louisiana cattle, said Mike Dominique, owner of Dominique’s stockyard where the field day was held. “They’re flooding the market with kill cows over there.”

Cattle numbers nationwide continue to decline, said Karl Harborth, LSU AgCenter cattle specialist.

“Rebuilding is trying to occur now in the United States,” Pruitt said. “But the drought situation in the southern U.S. is preventing rebuilding of the herd from becoming a reality. The year 2013 might be the first year we could see some stabilization in the U.S. beef herd.”

The price of beef is increasing at grocery stores, Harborth said. “It’s going to inch up slowly, but it’s just a question of when the consumer is going to push back.”

The export market is good for U.S. cattle because of the weak dollar, Pruitt added.

Many producers who are able to retire are getting out of cattle, and that means anyone getting into the cattle business should be able to make a good living, said Andrew Granger, LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish. “There are just not a lot of people out there to carry the torch.”

Granger is encouraging his own daughter to raise cattle. “I’m very optimistic about the future of the cattle business.”

Dominique said cattle owners have to meet demand of buyers who are purchasing for stockyards and packing houses.

The color of cattle is important to many buyers because that’s what is specified on their orders, he said. “You have to learn to look at your cattle through my buyers’ eyes.”

The main complaint of cattle buyers at auctions is that bull calves are not castrated, Dominique said. And the difference between a bull and a steer can result in 8-12 cents a pound less. “This has been a fantastic year all the way through.”

Christine Navarre, LSU AgCenter veterinarian, outlined restrictions on medicine that can be given to cattle.

Food and Drug Administration regulations for drugs used on food-producing animals are more restrictive than regulations for humans. A medical doctor can write a prescription for a drug to be used for a purpose other than what was intended, but veterinarians can’t do that unless they follow some strict rules and can establish a meat and milk withdrawal.

Other countries have banned the use of many antibiotics for animals to prevent bacterial drug resistance. But in some cases that has caused more problems because it has necessitated the use of drugs that are related to antibiotics prescribed for people.

A similar antibiotic restriction has been considered in Congress, but that proposal has been shelved, Navarre said. She warned cattle owners that a cheap price on drugs should be questioned because the drugs could be low quality or even counterfeit.

Cattle owners should start to document their care procedures for their herds to prove they care about their animals’ welfare because on-farm audits and assessments are likely to be required in the future.

Cow-calf guidelines online at www.bqa.org detail what should be done, Navarre said. “Most of you are doing everything in there, but you need to document it.”

Mike McCormick, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Research Station in Franklinton, discussed the use of haylage for cattle feed.

The practice requires a device to wrap round bales of hay in plastic sheeting. The hay encased in plastic becomes a “silo,” and bacteria forming in the containment create a chemical process that stabilizes the feed.

The result is hay that is high in protein that is important for calves and lactating cows.

Hay cut for haylage doesn’t have to be fluffed as much, and it is not as sensitive to rain after it is cut, McCormick said. Storage losses are less than unwrapped hay. Annual ryegrass works best for haylage, but crabgrass, signalgrass and forage sorghum are also good. 

Hay has become critical in Texas, where producers are buying Louisiana hay, said Stan Dutile, LSU AgCenter county agent in Lafayette Parish. It is important that enough hay remain in Louisiana for cattle producers here, he added.

Vince Deshotel, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Landry Parish, has helped Texas ranchers get hay from Louisiana. Deshotel said hay sellers should be cautious in their transactions. “Get some money in hand before that first load.”

Deshotel said he has heard of loads of hay being sold at truck stops.

Brokers are charging “outrageous prices” for hay, Deshotel said. But he reminded producers that Louisiana should consider that a devastating drought could occur here. “We’re only 10 or 15 inches of rain away from where they (Texas livestock owners) are.”

Ed Twidwell, LSU AgCenter forage specialist, outlined what grass to plant during the fall.Ryegrass can be planted on a prepared seedbed now, and “it can be over-seeded in mid-October.”

Crimson clover works best on well-drained soils, while white and berseem clovers work well on heavy soils, Twidwell said. “Clovers tend to be very site-specific, so producers need to do some experimentation and find out which clovers would work the best in their particular situation.”

Becoming certified in a voluntary program is one way of avoiding mandatory environmental regulations, said Louisiana Master Farmer Program director Ernest Girouard. Most cattle owners are doing the practices described in the program, and cattle owners have to do the least amount of work to become certified.