Participants at the LSU AgCenter Southeast Research Station Field Day on Dec. 8 heard about the latest studies on pasture-based dairying being conducted at the facility.

Dairymen from Louisiana and Mississippi were invited to the field day because both states have mainly pasture-based operations, according to Mike McCormick, resident coordinator at the station.

“Basically, what we’re trying to emphasize is pasture dairying and the factors that affect the success of pasture-based dairying,” McCormick said. 

The field day consisted of two outside stops to discuss ongoing projects. At the first stop, LSU AgCenter agronomist Kun-Jun Han gave updates on his forage research projects that are looking at sorghum as a source for biofuels and organic fertilizers. Han’s research on corn gluten as an organic fertilizer is being looked at as an alternative to traditional fertilizers, and he will have results next year.

“It’s still too early to tell how it compares to poultry litter, but we know it can be an alternative organic fertilizer,” Han said. “It has some possibilities, but we must continue our test for two years before we will have clear conclusions.”  

At the second stop, LSU AgCenter nutrient management specialist Vinicius Moreira presented results of a demonstration project where oats and ryegrass are grazed together and the cows rotate over a 20-acre plot.

“We have 90 cows involved in this project, and we move these cows over this 20-acre plot to make sure they don’t over utilize one part of the paddock and underutilize the other portion,” Moreira said. 

Because this is a demonstration study it is being done to gain information for farmers so they don’t have to spend the time or money themselves to get results.

McCormick, who leads the demonstration, said another aspect of the study is to look at cereal grains that are more drought-tolerant and will provide a high-protein food source during dry periods like the state has experienced this fall.

“We’re also looking at some grains that farmers haven’t been growing in this area, like canola,” McCormick said. “Everybody knows ‘fry your food in canola because it’s healthy,’ but it’s also a good forage for cattle that looks similar to turnips.”       

North Carolina State University Extension specialist Steve Washburn discussed his observations on successful pasture-based dairying.

Washburn said using a grazing system that allows cows to do the harvesting versus using machinery gives producers the opportunity to keep more of their income.“We’re seeing some really innovative grazing systems in the Southeast as well as in the Midwest and the Northeast. So I’ve pulled from those operations around the country to present to these growers.”