What Beef Producers Can Do During the Drought
University of Illinois Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences Dan Shike says it's getting increasingly difficult to find feed for livestock due to the worsening drought. He says pastures were in very poor condition before the corn crop was - and cattle producers are facing serious challenges. Shike says they're out of grass, out of forage and other feeds they might try to buy are in short supply and very expensive. In fact - he says feed prices are at historic highs - as are many of the grain supplements. Even ethanol coproducts are becoming more expensive. As a result - Shike says some livestock producers are wondering if they can use the drought-stricken corn as feed. As long as nitrate levels are within acceptable limits - he says that is possible - adding it is absolutely necessary to test for nitrate.
According to Shike - it's a time of real uncertainty. He says producers are faced with tough management decisions. The University of Illinois is encouraging producers who still have calves on cows to consider early weaning. Shike says weaning the calf will immediately reduce that requirement on the cow - and taking the calves out of the pasture can take that grazing pressure off. Shike says producers have not reached the point where they have to make decisions about culling. He notes the U.S. beef herd has been dwindling and that many cows were lost to the 2011 drought in the Southwest - bringing beef prices up to historic highs. Extensive culling would make the situation worse. Shike says the effects of the drought are likely to be felt for a long time.
There are some short-term coping strategies Shike suggests. He says to look at the feeds stored and make a plan. He also suggests using low-quality forage for the moment because cattle will be under more strain in the winter and their nutrient requirements will go up. Shike advises saving high-quality forage for that time of year - and supplementing it with coproducts.
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