Cattle Producers Strategies for Drought

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Times of reduced rainfall and above average temperatures in summer reduces the amount of pasture available for grazing as well as hay production. These conditions create problems for many cow-calf producers. Producers should evaluate their individual situation and develop a plan to deal with drought conditions.

Determine the available feed supply, and the feed requirements? Compare the feed requirements to the available feed supply. If feed is limited, management decisions must be made.

Consider early weaning of calves, which reduces the quality and amount of feed needed by brood cows. Calves as young as 4 months of age can be weaned and fed a palatable ration of 12 to 14 percent crude protein.

Selectively market calves. Older, heavier calves should be sold first. Younger, lighter-weight calves consume less feed and are more efficient in feed utilization.

Culling cows will stretch the feed supply. Open cows, old cows, and those that have physical problems are candidates for culling. Reducing numbers will reduce the amount of pasture and hay needed, leaving a little extra feed for the remaining herd. Receipts from marketing could also be used to purchase feed for the remaining cattle.

Store harvested hay to keep losses at a minimum. Storage procedures that reduce losses are even more important during times of limited forage supply.

Not to be pessimistic about the drought situation, but it is always a good idea to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Hopefully, late summer and early fall will bring more favorable conditions for forage growth to support cattle production.