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LSU receives grant to study cattle management practices

published: April 6th 2021
by: Tobie Blanchard
source: LSU AgCenter

ALEXANDRIA, La. — LSU AgCenter beef cattle researcher Guillermo Scaglia has received a $500,000 grant that will fund a wide-ranging study of how different management practices affect cattle herds.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture will also be used to explore why small cattle operations are often reluctant to use proven practices.

“There are many technologies that have been proven economical and effective to improve beef production, but their adoption in small and medium-sized beef cattle farms has not been readily accepted,” Scaglia said.

He said the grant will be used to conduct outreach efforts with programs such as artificial insemination and grazing school as well as traditional activities like pasture walks, workshops and field days. 

“Producers’ voices and knowledge, presenting their learning experiences, will be a major addition in these schools,” he said.

One goal of the project is to increase the weaning weight of calves and producers’ income along with an economic and financial evaluation of practices and profitability.

The grant will help fund a project to determine the cost effectiveness of high-tech methods and practices such as artificial insemination, a defined breeding season, use of growth promoters in calves, strategic use of ionophores and rotational grazing. Scaglia will compare those approaches to a low-tech system with a longer breeding season, no artificial insemination and continuous grazing. 

Herds at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria will be used in the study.

“Yearly performance and economic evaluation of the systems will be analyzed,” he said. “Also, the understanding of the attitudes on implementing management practices and adopting technologies conducive to overcome farm’s structural limitations, thus increasing the long-term sustainability of small and medium-sized farms will be studied.”

LSU AgCenter agricultural economists Kurt Guidry and Krishna Paudel will play a major role in the research of this issue, Scaglia said.

Artificial insemination and grazing schools led by experienced producers, industry professionals, representatives of government agencies and others will be offered.

“We will facilitate the creation of groups of producers that will keep implementing artificial insemination and other practices in their herds as well as developing marketing strategies and collaboration,” Scaglia said. “This project assures that its impact will have a multiplication effect and will thrive even after its conclusion.”

The grant will also enable Scaglia to evaluate whether the outreach efforts have been effective. Follow-up surveys will be sent to a sampling of attendees within 12 months of attending a workshop, meeting or other outreach program to determine if and how the changes in management have improved their operation, he said.

“From their responses, in conjunction with the research component related to the economic and sociological findings, we will be able to track whether our programs have positively impacted their propensity to adopt production practices that lead to greater productivity and profitability of small farms,” he said.

The project also aims to incorporate producers raising animals for 4-H shows. 

“We know there is an overlap of 4-H and commercial producers, but the understanding of the use of technologies in this group may shed some light on possible structural issues limiting the widespread adoption of technology,” Scaglia said.

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