Maximizing profitability, sustainability, and carbon sequestration of no-till forage systems for finishing beef cattle in the Gulf Coast region
During the summer grazing period steers gained 0.73, 0.59, and 0.46 lb/d for Systems 1 to 3, respectively. So far the average daily gain on winter forages for all steers was 3.1 lb. Determination of soil characteristics and carbon flux measurements has been conducted periodically. Ten farmers are interviewed to determine their costs of production. As the field experiments progress, production records are forwarded to the economists and analysis conducted. From the estimates, determination of a required carbon credit to entice adoption is developed for each strategy. An average of 35 farmers was present in each of the visits.
1) Evaluate the productivity (pounds produced per acre, carcass characteristics and beef quality produced) of 3 forage systems that will provide economic and sustainable alternatives to produce forage-fed beef in the Gulf Coast region.
2) Assess carbon sequestration in various forage systems differing in the intensity of use of resources.
3) Evaluate the costs and returns and labor requirements associated with each of three forage systems, assuming benefits of carbon sequestration.
4) Disseminate gathered information via peer-reviewed journals, extension publications, magazines (The Louisiana Cattlemen and Gulf Coast Cattleman), eXtension and the Gulf Coast Beef Education Alliance, which is already established and functioning, reaching hundreds of producers and extension agents in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida through an internet interface that communicates on a monthly basis.
Objective 1. Pastures from all 3 forage systems were available to start the first grazing season. The dallisgrass/clovers pastures were available in the Spring 2010, because clovers were planted during the Fall 2009 on the dallisgrass stands. Hay from these pastures were produced in late summer, early fall. Grazing season started on June 10, 2009 with 54 steers (18 steers/system; 3 replicates/system; 6 steers/replicate) that were purchased from a single source with a genetic structure of 3/8 Gelbvieh, 3/8 Red Angus, and ¼ Brahman. Their average BW at the beginning of the experiment was 556 lb. Steers in systems 1 and 2 were able to graze bermudagrass pastures for 216 d while those in System 3 spent approximately 45 days grazing sorghum-sudan in July-August. Before and after, steers have access to bermudagrass. Bermudagrass hay was produced in all 3 systems (124, 91, and 36 bales, for Systems 1 to 3, respectively). Steers were fed hay from December 12 to the beginning of the grazing period on winter forages. Due to the excess rainfall during the Fall, winter forages were planted late (October) when the plan was to do it in mid-September. Winter forages were available on January 21 for Systems 2 and 3 and on the 27 for System 1. Ultrasound of steers (backfat, ribeye area) was conducted on the steers on day 0 of the grazing season (June 6, 2009) and at the start of the grazing period on winter annuals. At this time steers are still grazing winter pastures (Figure 1). Steers will be harvested in 30 to 45 days for carcass data collection.
Objective 2. For objective 2 to evaluate soil carbon sequestration, initial soil samples were taken from fields for different forage systems and characterized. The results are shown in Table 1. In addition, chambers gas sampling was constructed and used for monthly collection of gas samples for estimating emissions. The preliminary results of average CO2-C emissions for fields of different forage systems from September and February are summarized in Figure 2. These results suggest that CO2 emissions from field of different forage systems are likely different. The yearly emission for specific forage system with grazing will be calculated after the sample collection for one year. Periodical methane and nitrous oxide fluxes were also determined. Preliminary results indicated that net methane flux ranged from -3.4 to 14 CH4-C mg m-2 day-1 whereas nitrous oxide flux was generally less than 0.03 N2O-N mg m-2 day-1 for these fields. In this grazing season there is still one more sampling date to do.
Objective 3. Producers willing to participate in the survey to collect costs and returns estimates have been identified. The questionnaire to be used by interviewers (Jeffrey Gillespie and Robert Boucher) continues to be in draft stage. It has been completed, but details on wording continue to be considered and Dr. Gillespie is going through the questionnaire to make certain there are no missing items. It is expected that a final draft will be ready for submission to the LSU AgCenter Internal Review Board for Human Subjects during the month of April, 2010, with interviews to take place during late Spring and Summer, 2010.
Objective 4. Activities in a private farm and at the Iberia Research Station (July 18, 2009 and March 13, 2010) have been a success from the standpoint of people’s interest and comments. Also important, is to attract extension agents from different institutions who will be taking the responsibility of training farmers in different aspects for forage fed beef production.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Since we haven’t finished the first year of data collection we don’t have a grasp of the final impact of this project. However, we are confident that the data collected will provide producers and extension agents alike valuable information on this topic. Producers will get first hand information on production and economics of forage fed beef with the addition of the carbon sequestration benefits of the forage systems under evaluation.
Baton Rouge, LA
Sunset, LA 70584
Agent, Vermilion Parish
1105 West Port Street
Abbeville, LA 70510-58
Office Phone: 3378984335
Sunset, LA 70584
Foster Land and Cattle
Dubach, LA 71235
LSU AgCenter, Lafayette Parish
Parish Government Bld.,1010 Lafayette St.Suite 325
Lafayette , LA 70501-68
Office Phone: 3372917090
N. Mississippi Research Ext. Center Prairie Unit
10223 Hwy 382
PO Box 60
Prairie, MS 39756
Office Phone: 6623694426
Abbeville, LA 70510
LSU AgCenter, School of Animal Sciences
116-C J. B. Francioni
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-42
Office Phone: 2255783438
LSU AgCenter, School of Plant, Environ andSoil Sci
313 M. B. Sturgis
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Office Phone: 2255781360
LSU AgCenter, Agricultural Economics and Agrib.
279 Ag. Administration Bldg.
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-56
Office Phone: 2255782759