[Image: Forage Tour]NATCHITOCHES – Forage producers toured three different operations this week to learn the latest techniques in the production and use of high-quality grass to support the livestock operations in central and northwestern Louisiana.
"This tour is unique because it features three different hybrid bermudagrasses being used in different ways," said LSU AgCenter forage specialist Dr. Ed Twidwell, who coordinated the educational event.
As part of the educational event Tuesday (May 25), 50 participants toured a forage and cattle operation at Gottsch Enterprises in Clarence and Melrose Plantation near Natchitoches. In addition, participants observed the Little Phillip No. 1 bermudagrass variety being developed by Larry Herrington near Florien.
Such educational tours are sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Forage and Grassland Council about twice each year at different locations in the state to help forage producers learn about the latest developments in their industry.
"Gottsch Enterprises is a unique cattle and forage operation similar to ones found in Oklahoma and Kansas," said LSU AgCenter county agent Paul Morris.
The company buys English-cross calves weighing 300-400 pounds from auction markets in Louisiana and other southeastern states. Then calves are delivered to one of three company preconditioning sites, like the operation at Clarence, and held for 45-60 days. The Gottsch site at Clarence consists of almost 1,200 acres of sandy loam soil located near the Red River that is planted in Russell bermudagrass.
"While the calves are here, we work to stabilize their health and teach them to eat feed from a trough," said Ronnie Walters, manager of the Clarence site, adding that all calves are fed a mixed ration and allowed to graze on Russell bermudagrass.
Upon arriving at the Clarence site, calves are placed in small 8-acre tracts near the working facilities where they can be easily observed and treated as needed.
"As you can see, Russell bermudagrass is excellent forage and can handle the heavy foot traffic in a small pen," Walters explained.
Calves average gaining between 1.25 pounds and 1.75 pounds per day while at the site, he said.
As the calves’ health stabilizes, they are moved to larger tracts of either 40 acres or 200 acres per tract. The 200-acre pens are equipped with pivot irrigation systems, and water is added to the pastures throughout the dry times of the year. The irrigated sites are stocked at the rate of 400 calves per tract.
Irrigation helps us produce a lot of high quality forage for the cattle to graze, Walters said.
When calves finish at the Clarence site, they are shipped to one of the three company feed lots to be fed until they reach market size.
Gottsch Enterprises also contracts with other producers, like Melrose Plantation, and pays according to the number of pounds gained by the cattle. Contract cattle are placed in large pastures at Melrose Plantation that contain a mixture of bermudagrass, white clover and Persian clover.
Emery Jones, a producer who leases land from Melrose Plantation, explained the procedure he used to establish a field of Jiggs bermudagrass. He uses Jiggs bermudagrass for hay.
"Producers need to intensively manage hybrid bermudagrasses to get the benefits," the LSU AgCenter’s Morris pointed out.
Another stop during the tour included a hay field of Little Phillip No. 1 bermudagrass at Clyde Sneed’s farm near Florien. The operation is being managed by Larry Herrington.
"Little Phillip No. 1 bermudagrass was found to be better than other hybrid varieties in the coastal plain soils of western Louisiana," said LSU AgCenter associate professor Dr. W.D. Pitman. However, it is performing similar to the other hybrid varieties when tested in different soils types at other locations, Pitman pointed out.
During the tour, Herrington also explained the procedure for establishing a pasture of Little Phillip No. 1 bermudagrass.