[Image: Please click the image to view the PDF version of the 2012 Iberia Research Station Profile.]
Recent interest in finishing beef only on forages has surfaced because of the perception that forage-fed beef has a lower environmental impact and contains greater concentration of healthy to unhealthy fat ratios. Scientists are investigating year-long forage systems for producing 1,000+ pound steers at 17-19 months of age.
Efficient use of forage resources
Louisiana is blessed with the capacity to grow forages. The use of these resources is highly affected by management. The evaluation of different strategies and practices will increase the profitability of beef cattle enterprises.
All sugarcane varieties released to the growers in Louisiana since the 1980s were developed in cooperation with personnel at the Iberia Research Station. The station is located in a sugarcane production region with unique soils and environmental conditions, which dictate screening of experimental varieties within the Bayou Teche region.
Grazing Behavior of Beef Cattle
Research is being conducted to gain an understanding of the process by which cattle express choice when grazing. The focus is on how forage mixtures affect foraging behavior and animal performance.
Use of Hay to Increase Productivity on Forage Systems
The objective is to evaluate the use of bermudagrass hay as means of increasing the productivity per unit of area and its impact on animal physiology in calves grazing cool-season forages.
Sweet Sorghum for Biomass Production
The federal mandate for energy security through the development of sustainable biofuels has revived interest in sweet sorghum as a renewable energy crop. Researchers at the Iberia Research Station have partnered with the biofuel industry to identify scenarios for furnishing sweet sorghum feedstock to the biorefinery.
Significance of Iberia Research Station Research
- Research conducted on sugarcane varieties and management practices helps to make sugarcane the No. 1 row crop in value in the state.
- The efficient use of forage resources will significantly increase the profitability of beef cattle farms.
- Grazing beef cattle to slaughter weight using only forages fits well with Louisiana’s ability to grow forages year-round.
- Completed research to evaluate the merits of crossbreeding tropically adapted beef breeds could contribute significantly to the industry.
- Efforts to evaluate sweet sorghum as a primary feedstock for biofuel production could lead to its use to meet the U.S. target of producing 21 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022.
2011 Beef and Sugar Industry Facts
- 11,015 farms/ranches raised 561,627 head of cattle and calves
- Total value of beef production was $448 million
- 489 farms harvested sugarcane on 381,000 acres.
- Cane yield averaged 31.3 tons per acre with each ton containing an average of 236 pounds of sugar.
- 1,405,000 tons of sugar were extracted by the 11 raw sugar mills.
- Total value of sugarcane was $1.1 billion
Data from the LSU AgCenter's Louisiana Ag Summary Web site.
The development of forage-fed beef cattle enterprises will be the principal objective of projects in ruminant nutrition. The relationship of grazing behavior to animal performance will be featured to gain an understanding of the contribution of the forage diet. This is a contemporary issue in animal agriculture that has been supported by and should continue to garner extramural funding.
Through the evaluation of different forages species as well as year-round forage systems and management practices, the profitability and sustainability of beef cattle enterprises will be improved. Low- and high-input cow-calf systems will be evaluated and will provide the framework for research and extension activities at the Iberia Research Station.
Personnel at the Iberia Research Station will continue to be involved in the evaluation and selection of sugarcane varieties. Improved sugarcane varieties represent the most important contribution research can make to the growers and millers.
Meeting the target of producing 21 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022 will be a challenge. Our partnerships with the fledging sweet sorghum ethanol industries should result in identifying feedstock logistics to meet the federally mandated goal.