Breed types and cover crops provide alternatives for sustainable year-round supply of forage-fed beef for small farms in the Gulf Coast region: Research and on-farm demonstrations

2016 Annual Report for LS14-266

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $171,988.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Louisiana State University
Region: Southern
State: Louisiana
Principal Investigator:

Breed types and cover crops provide alternatives for sustainable year-round supply of forage-fed beef for small farms in the Gulf Coast region: Research and on-farm demonstrations


The project is in the middle of the first year so it has not completed a full cycle (year) yet. Milestones, so far, are completed for the time period.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) Evaluate the interaction between forage systems and traditional (Angus) and non-traditional (Holstein and Pineywoods) breed types. This evaluation will be conducted by measuring the productivity and economic sustainability of producing beef on 100% forage diets and on the impact of tillage and forage systems on soil physic-chemical properties.

2) Measure the impact of breed type (Pineywoods, Braford, and Dexter) and the use of cover crops (brassicas, clovers, small grains and native grasses) under different management practices (rotationally grazed, stockpiled forages) at the farm level.

3) On-farm research and outreach program will be run jointly enhancing technology transfer through theory and on-hand work. Pasture walks will be organized annually on each of these farms and at the Iberia Research Station (IRS). Information will also be disseminated via peer-reviewed journals, extension publications, magazines and other venues. A workshop in Year 3 will compile all information dealing with animal productivity, effect of forage system on soil characteristics and economic analyses


Objective 1. Soil preparation and planting followed experimental protocol; pastures were planted in late September. Due to an extremely wet Fall pasture growth was below average. Some of the species planted in the ‘cocktail’ pasture were not present in the pastures except for radishes and low presence of purple turnips. Annual ryegrass growth rate was low and pastures were finally available for growth in early January. Holstein and Pineywoods cattle were purchased and brought to the Iberia Research Station (IRS) in October. Due to limited availability at the time steers (within breed) were not as uniform as expected. Angus steers were obtained from a different LSU AgCenter research station and brought at the same time. Steers were maintained on bermudagrass and alfalfa hay until the pastures were available for grazing. Since then, performance of steers from different breed types and pasture health are appropriate. At the time of this report steers are still grazing winter pastures. 
The initial soil samples were taken on October 21, 2016.  It is still being analyzed.  Due to usually small change in soil organic matter between years,  soil organic matter change will be quantified with second year collection after the forage treatments being established for a year.
Data for economic analysis is being collected as described in the grant.

Objective 2. Information on animal and pasture performance have been collected in two of the farms. Cattle have not been harvested yet. One farmer decided not to plant cover crops this year (2015) due to weather conditions (flooding areas).

Objective 3. The project was presented at the 2016 Acadiana Field Day (March 19) at the IRS. Rest of outreach activities will follow although dates will be later (May and June this year).

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The project is at early stages so its impact is difficult to describe; however, producers welcomed it at the field day. 


Dr. Jeffrey Gillespie

[email protected]
LSU AgCenter; Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness
279 Ag. Administration Bldg.
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5604
Office Phone: 2255782759
Dr. Jim Wang

[email protected]
LSU AgCenter; School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences
313 M. B. Sturgis
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Office Phone: 2255781360