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Beef Cattle and Drought Conditions

I hope we don't need them this year but just in case here are some ideas for Cattle Production in Drought Situations.

Droughts should be considered "normal" in the cattle industry. All producers should make plans well in advance of their occurrence. Below are a few ideas that you might consider:

Adjust stocking rate to the carrying capacity of dry years, then take advantage of favorable years with alternative enterprises such as retained ownership, stockers, etc.

Know the seasonal forage flow and be prepared to adjust the stock flow accordingly.

Plan for water availability. Gain access to large water reservoirs or well water if possible. Graze areas with limited water reserves first.

Add additional fencing. Crossfences increase the number of paddocks, increasing the ability to control graze and rest periods. Avoid the temptation to "throw open" all of the gates.

Lengthen pasture rest periods during slow or no growth times. Plants can withstand severe grazing if followed by proper rest periods. These rest periods allow plants time to replenish tissues above and below the ground.

Know critical dates for rainfall and forage growth. These dates coincide with seasonal temperatures and day length that directly affect the forage flow of the forage types.

Have animals selected in advance to sell. Establish levels of culling, such as: first level, open cows; second level, low or poor producers; third level, growing stock and large calves; fourth level, old cows and nonconformers, etc.

Consider early weaning to avoid poor conception the next year (see below). During droughts, forages decline rapidly in quality as well as quantity. Wean calves before the end of the breeding season to decrease the cows' nutrient requirements by half, which could mean the difference between rebreeding or not.

Plan, monitor, and replan. Establish a forage grazing plan calendar outlining expected seasonal forage production. Monitor utilization, production and rainfall. Compare expected production figures with past records relative to rainfall. Make needed adjustments.

Be careful about trying to feed yourself out of a drought, only feed for a good reason! It is usually more cost efficient to move cattle to a location with abundant forage, than to have forage shipped to an area in drought.

With this in mind, a short term strategy would be to seek out all grass available for lease in the area. If none is available or is too costly or unsatisfactory, look elsewhere, but keep in mind transportation costs. An option may be to send lower quality cows to leased pasture, then sell them after two or three months of grazing. If large numbers of cows start coming to town, the additional transportation and grass lease costs from delaying the sell time might be money well spent. Cattle prices might also be better outside the drought-stricken area.

Morris Halliburton is a cattle breeder with many years experience in breeding registered beef cattle. Morris believes your number one goal in Beef Cattle Raising should be to try for at least a small profit every year. If you are a wannabe farmer or just happen to own a little land and would like to raise a few animals Morris recommends you start your homework with Beef Cattle Marketing and Sales.

Beef Cattle Marketing, How To Establish A Profitable Marketing & Sales Plan For Registered Beef Cattle Producers is available HERE. It is a comprehensive guide to managing for profit and also includes a complete section on "How To Hold Your Own Registered Cattle Auction" on your Farm or Ranch.

Copyright 2007 - Morris Halliburton. This article is copyrighted and you may publish it at your website, in your newsletter, blogs or send it to a friend as long as do not alter the content and you retain the authorís resource box and keep all links original.