[Image: Dairy Field Day]
FRANKLINTON – Participants heard reports on a variety of research during a field day at the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Research Station last week.
Topics covered during the Oct. 30 event ranged from the importance of conducting research in cooperation with other universities to the need for farmers to be concerned about biosecurity in their operations.
During the field day, Dr. Mike McCormick, the LSU AgCenter’s research coordinator at the Southeast Station, explained that cooperation is an essential element in carrying out research projects that affect dairy producers in the region.
"We are working closely with the faculty at Mississippi State University to share the expense of carrying out a lot of the research that each university once conducted independently," McCormick said, explaining that such cooperation saves money for taxpayers in both states while providing producers with a broader range of experts conducting research.
The LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Research Station was established in 1944 on 840 acres of Coastal Plain soil is located west of Franklinton. The station has 220 dairy cows involved in its various research projects.
"We are one of the few southern land-grant schools with decentralized faculty," Dr. Bill Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter, said in his opening remarks about how the AgCenter serves clientele across Louisiana. "They are out on research stations like this one, in parish offices across the state and out in the field where you need them."
The field day involved tours of outdoor research plots, as well as indoor discussions, to provide information to cattle producers on topics ranging from the potential of alfalfa production in the Florida Parishes to early detection of lame cows in dairy herds.
The three field tour stops focused on the prevention of parasites in herds, an overview of alfalfa baleage research at the station and heat stress research on confined dairy cows.
LSU AgCenter forage specialist Dr. Ed Twidwell presented information from research that he has conducted over the past year on alfalfa production and the possible opportunity area farmers have in producing such a hay crop.
Twidwell said most dairy producers in the southeastern part of the state import their alfalfa hay either from Texas or Oklahoma at a cost of about $200 per ton.
"What we’re trying to do in this part of the state is grow alfalfa and use it as baleage, where you cut the crop and wrap it up at about 50 percent moisture," Twidwell said.
The LSU AgCenter specialist said alfalfa is a high input crop, but this year his research shows that the crop produced about four tons per acre at a value of about $720 per acre.
"When you subtract the $500 that it cost to produce that acre, the producer actually comes out about $220 ahead," Twidwell explained, cautioning, however, that there is no guarantee such results would be obtained every year. "But this crop does make the production of alfalfa look promising."
One of the biggest disadvantages to alfalfa production is the moisture in South Louisiana.
"Typically in the summer we get lots of late afternoon thunderstorms that pop up and rain on the cut alfalfa, and this causes a lot of nutrient loss," Twidwell said. Many of the farmers in the area raise ryegrass for hay and have fewer problems from moisture.
In other reports during the field day, Dr. Angelica Chapa, Mississippi State University’s dairy specialist, discussed research she’s involved with that puts a score on the amount of lameness being experienced by dairy cows and how this affects milk production.
"We’re looking at how lameness affects economics – such as higher medical cost, higher culling rates, decreased milk production and increased reproduction problems," Chapa said.
Reducing infectious diseases that affect reproduction was the topic covered by LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Steve Nicholson.
Nicholson explained that the concept of biosecurity on a farm refers to trying to prevent any infectious diseases – not just those that could come from acts of terrorism or disease outbreaks imported from other countries.
"We just want to remind the producers about diseases like brucellosis, leptospirosis, ‘vibrio’ and ‘trich,’ Nicholson said, explaining that while brucellosis is thought to have been eradicated from the state, leptospirosis is still here – and that people also are susceptible to this disease.
As for the "vibrio" disease, Nicholson said this bacterial infection is transmitted through the reproductive process of the animals, and he cautioned producers to be careful when buying bulls – or using the services of bulls – over three or four years of age. The disease is passed from a bull to a cow, and it causes cows to be infertile until they build up an immunity to the disease.
"The greatest impact is on the cow, the embryo and the developing fetus," Nicholson said.
Contacts: Mike McCormick at (985) 839-2322 or email@example.com
Steve Nicholson at (225) 578-2414 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Twidwell at (225) 578-4564 or email@example.com
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org