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Cattle producers improve efficiency to offset low pricesCattle producers improve efficiency to offset low prices

May 4, 2016

4 Min Read
<p><em>LSU AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan talks about different methods of controlling crabgrass in pastures at the Northwest Beef and Forage Field Day on April 26 at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station at Homer, La.</em></p>

Cattle producers in northwest Louisiana got some insight into the economic outlook of the cattle industry and how to manage their operations more efficiently at the Northwest Beef and Forage Field Day on April 26 at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station at Homer, La.

“Since beef prices have dropped, cattle producers are experiencing a decline in their economic situation,” said LSU AgCenter Northwest Region director Pat Colyer. “We hope the information, whether forage production, fly control or weed management, will improve producer profitability and help them survive until beef prices rebound.”

Texas A&M agricultural economist Stan Bevers said he expects the beef industry to remain in a downward trend for less than two years. “I’d say in 2018, we should start picking up,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects the recovery won’t happen until 2020, he said.

“I’m projecting sooner than that because we’ve lost our enthusiasm for having a lot of cattle,” he said.

Bred heifers were selling for $3,000 just 18 months ago. “I hope you’re not paying more than 1,600 or 1,700 bucks for them now,” Bevers said.

Continued cheap corn prices have allowed feedlots to feed calves longer to gain more weight, and the average carcass weight has increased by more than 28 pounds above the five-year average, he said. U.S. pork production is about to exceed beef production, the first time Bevers said he has seen that happen.


Horn fly control can help growing cattle with weight gain, LSU AgCenter entomology research associate Michael Becker said. Several products are available, but the class of insecticidal active ingredient must be rotated to prevent flies from developing resistance.

Ear tags, which usually offer longer control than pour-on or spray material, are more likely to lead to resistance when the same class of insecticide is used every year, Becker said. Using pyrethroid ear tags every third year is recommended to decrease the resistance possibility.


Some cattlemen with tall fescue in their pastures have seen high amounts of alkaloids in the fescue compared to other areas of the state, AgCenter agronomist Wink Alison said. He suggested diluting the field with other forages that would grow at the same time, such ryegrass, wheat, oats or clover.


As far as clovers are concerned, AgCenter forage specialist Buddy Pitman said they are primarily thought of as pasture plants for the forage value.

“If we look at clover from a primarily nitrogen point, we can graze early, then allow the clovers to grow for three or four weeks and get an accumulation of 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of dry matter,” Pitman said.

“We can go in and clip that off, and those leaves deteriorate, providing a fertilizer affect,” he said. “So if you calculate the value of that fertilizer and the cost of fertilizer, then you’ve got your first fertilizer application of your summer grasses from a clover crop that you grazed earlier in the year.”


LSU AgCenter weed specialist Ron Strahan talked about controlling weeds, such as crabgrass, in hay meadows.

“We have test plots with a pre-emergence application of Prowl H20, and they showed good control of crabgrass,” Strahan said.

If producers didn’t get their application out, it’s too late to apply it now, he said. But with bermudagrass they could always apply 10 to 12 ounces of glyphosate within 10 days after harvesting their hay with minimal injury on bermudagrass and very good control on crabgrass.


AgCenter beef project leader Ryon Walker told the producers about the importance of scales in their operations.

“When it comes to calves, knowing what your weaning weights are allows you to market cattle,” Walker said. “Know when to market them and what size to market them. Just from a marketing standpoint, having scales is huge.”


The program included a stock dog demonstration by Jimmy Walker with his award winning border collie, Pippa. Walker of Hillsboro, Texas, used a whistle and voice commands to have Pippa round up and separate cattle.

It’s important to have the gathering of cows as uneventful as possible, he said.

“Uneventful means we don’t have cattle running across the field with their tails up trying to jump fences,” Ryon Walker said. “In a low-stress environment, the cattle are going to be more efficient and gain weight, and that could obviously be more profitable to producers.”

Ryon Walker can be reached at 318-927-2578 or [email protected]

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