Eastern Corn Belt livestock producers should prepare for poor weather by taking lessons from last year’s drought.
If seed and feed supplies are tight, pastures are stressed or cattle body condition scores begin to sag, producers should take action, say two Purdue Extension specialists.
"Producers need to start out the season knowing what is in supply," says Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension forage specialist. "If there is any amount of hay or silage that's laid back, know the number of days' supply available in case you get in a pinch because of dry weather."
Now is a good time to decide on grazing strategies for the year. He and Ron Lemenager, Extension beef specialist, suggest that rotational grazing keeps pastures in good shape longer.
Producers should also survey pastures and alfalfa stands. Those damaged by the drought or overgrazing should be addressed. The earlier the better, Johnson says, because of limited forage seed supply this year.
“If producers plan to plant a forage crop, they should check with seed suppliers about availability,” he says. “Producers also should inquire about seed quality.”
Cows in breeding season need to have at least moderate body conditions scores, Lemenager says, so know their condition coming out of winter.
If feed supplies are short, cows can be supplemente to support lactation and achieve acceptable body conditions.
"An alternative to that is to creep-feed the calf, and that might be a strategy if we are looking at short-term drought," he adds. "If it looks like we're going to have a longer-term drought, I think the real strategy that should be considered is early weaning calves."
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