Managing forages for cattle productivity during drought

Pasture regrowth and low hay yields are a concern for cattle producers who have been battling drought this year.

University of Illinois Extension Beef Specialist Travis Meteer tells Brownfield there are management practices available to help maintain cow performance.

“Soybean hulls, dried distillers grains, corn co products like corn gluten feed. But we’re probably not going to replace a tremendous amount of pasture consumption with those low-level supplements.”

He says elevated feed costs prompted many producers to turn cattle out on pasture earlier this season.  And while recent rains in some areas will help, Meteer says there are a lot of overgrazed pastures that will take time and more precipitation to recover.

He says supplementing hay right now is tricky, but more options will become available as fall approaches like wheat straw, corn stalks, and summer annuals like sorghum sudangrass.

“I would continue to challenge them to manage their pastures as best they can to extend that grazing and prepare a plan for the fall to potentially harvest corn stalks, failure corn for corn silage or fall seeded cover crops to extend the grazing window.”

Meteer says there is still opportunity for profitability, but producers will have to manage their operations more efficiently.

“Given current economics for feeder calf prices and what bred cow prices are probably going to be this fall, I think it still makes sense to maintain your cow herd and your conception rates and keep those cows where you want them with a low level supplement.”

He says in daily conversations with beef producers, most seem to be better equipped to manage drought stress after learning management practices during the 2012 drought, but there are still challenges ahead.

Brownfield interviewed Meteer during a livestock connect session hosted by Farm Credit Illinois in Centralia last week.

Interview with Travis Meteer

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