LSU AgCenter scientists gave advice on how to make more money to forest land owners, cattle producers and poultry producers gathered for the Hill Farm Research Station field day Oct. 9.

Michael Blazier, LSU AgCenter forestry researcher, walked participants through a timber plot with pine, sweet gum and red oak trees. He said timberland owners tend to wait until prices are good before they start thinning their stands, and that’s a mistake. Thinning earlier is more effective and promotes better growth.

As a rule, thinning to a density of 150-200 trees should be done 10 to 12 years after planting. Blazier showed oak and gum trees that had shed lower limbs naturally, adding to the value of the saw timber.

Ryon Walker, LSU AgCenter animal scientist, told beef producers they may benefit from incorporating dry distillers grain (DDG), a byproduct of ethanol production, into cows’ diets as a winter supplement. This is especially true now during the droughty conditions that have caused some hay to be lower quality.

“Distillers grain is high in energy, protein and has some fat,” Walker said. “And the cows love it.”

In his study two years ago, Walker found that pregnancy rates in thin mature cows increased when supplemented with DDG compared to a liquid protein supplement for 90 days before calving.

He also found that heifers fed the dried distillers grain before their first calf were heavier at breeding time, and a greater percentage became pregnant within the first 15 days of the breeding season compared with heifers fed the DDG after their first calf.

The cost of dry distillers grain may be higher than some alternatives, but producers may be able to use less to get the benefits of greater weight gain and fertility.

Buddy Pitman, LSU AgCenter forage specialist, said some cattle producers may want to seed pastures with legumes instead of grasses as a way to get more protein into cows’ diets and improve weight gain.

One of the least expensive legumes is the iron and clay cowpea, Pitman said. “It’s been around since the 1940s.”

Legume-seeded pastures require more management than bermudagrass or bahiagrass pastures. But in the long run, they may be worth it.

Bill Owens, LSU AgCenter animal scientist, discussed a project to test a new bedding product for broiler chickens made of extruded cardboard wastes. The company claims the material keeps ammonia levels lower than sawdust and results in better bird health with less foot pad dermatitis.

The company, ATS, plans to buy back the material and use it for a fire retardant.

Owens said the project, being conducted at Hill Farm and at the LSU AgCenter Baton Rouge campus, also will analyze the material for land application on soil to compare it with conventional poultry litter.

A study just completed at the Hill Farm’s two poultry demonstration houses comparing tube heaters with traditional brooder heaters showed that the newer tube heaters used less propane and were a little cheaper to operate.

“The tube heaters cost a little more initially. But in only a few years, producers will recover these costs,” Owens said.