The U.S. beef cow numbers are at their lowest level in more than 50 years. Beef prices are at historical highs, and yet demand remains strong having continued to increase over the past three years. It sounds like the recipe for sustained profitability in the beef cattle industry for years to come.
That is, until we consider the recent drought and related factors' impact on input costs, and specifically the cost of feed. Yet a couple months ago in this publication - in the midst of the hottest, driest Ohio summer in more than 50 years - I suggested it was time to add cows and build the herd. I still do, especially if one is willing to look at some of the management tools that have not necessarily been considered 'traditional' in the past.
By now, you've already heard or read about all the various alternatives that might be available to either 'increase the feed, or reduce the need' for the limited forage and expensive concentrates we have available this year in Ohio. In fact, aren't the management strategies we've discussed this summer - both in Ohio and across the entire country - simply the same strategies astute cattlemen employ throughout both the good times, and also during those times that challenge even the best managers?
Think about all the management practices that have been discussed this summer in this publication, or in any of the various other publications you might have read. As you analyze it, you realize they are all simply the things that we talk about doing each and every year.
I won't list them all, but let me highlight a few:
Grazing management: leave some residual, and don't let them graze it too close: That's a management practice OSU Extension discusses at every Pasture Management class we host. It needs to happen regardless the weather!
Consider how alternative feeds might replace the traditional forages we'd prefer to feed: That's not a new concept. If an alternative feed such as distiller grains, gluten, wheat midds or even shelled corn is less expensive 'per pound of nutrient' than traditional forages and feed, should it really make a difference whether we're in a drought or not when it comes to working it into the ration?
Grow alternative annual or bi-annual forages on any acres that are available from July on into fall: This is an easy one. We talk about it every year regardless the weather. If you need/want more feed available late in the fall, oats could have been planted into those fields that were available such as wheat stubble or early harvested corn silage fields. If you prefer extra forage next spring, then plant cereal rye or annual ryegrass into those fields yet this fall.