FRANKLINTON, La. – Improved forages, improved prices and improved management practices were three of the highlights at the LSU AgCenter dairy field day on Nov. 11.

Dairy and beef producers from Mississippi and Louisiana attended the event to learn the latest research-based information on forage crop production and herd management.

After years of low prices and high costs, dairy farmers are breathing a much-needed sigh of relief, said Mike McCormick, resident coordinator of the LSU AgCenter Southeast Research Station.

“We came through 2009, which was the worst year for dairymen in the history of the dairy business,” McCormick said. “Milk prices have gradually come up to a level where farmers can make a little bit of money right now.”

Milk is selling at about $20 per hundredweight at the farm level, McCormick said. This translates at the retail level to about $1.70 to $1.75 per gallon to the farmers and gives them about 25 cents profit after a production cost of $1.50 per gallon.

“Back 10 or 15 years ago, that would have been considered a year of high profits. But with high costs to farmers in feed, fuel and fertilizer, it’s not the profitability we’d like to see,” McCormick said.

Forage management was the No. 1 topic at the field day. Of five presentations on the field tour, four dealt with ways to improve forages and pasture management.

Farmers were shown the cost savings that can be realized by stockpiling Bahia grass for dairy heifers and cows.

Cooper Hurst from Hunt Hill Cattle Company in Woodville, Miss., and Ronnie Bardwell, LSU AgCenter area dairy agent, discussed the benefits of using Bahia grass to help offset the cost of hay production.

The stockpiling program was outlined by Bardwell, who discussed preliminary findings from his study. “What we’re trying to do is utilize the forage that’s going to grow September, October and November,” he said.

Instead of making a final hay cutting of the season, farmers can put cows on that field to graze and save the expense of cutting it for hay.

“It’s no doubt a cost-saver. You can improve the quality of the forage, and overall, you’re just going to save a lot of money,” Hurst said.

Dry weather has been a factor with winter forages, but otherwise, McCormick said, farmers have had a good year.

Other subjects discussed at the field day included cell-grazing winter pastures, protein supplements for lactating dairy cows and dietary supplements for pasture-based beef and dairy cattle. The farmers were introduced to MarketMaker, a Web-based program that’s implemented by the LSU AgCenter to help connect producers and consumers.

Source: Louisiana State University Ag Center Research and Extension