It appears that a large portion of the great state of Ohio is undergoing some degree of abnormally dry weather. Whether your particular location qualifies as "drought-stricken" I suppose depends on your individual perspective or a classification by the U.S. Drought Monitor, http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/. The fact is beef producers are facing some tough management decisions as a result of the dry conditions.
Probably the highest priority management decision facing beef producers in a drought is feed allocation. In a normal year, pasture growth typically slows this time of year with cool-season grasses. The typical pasture observed around the state shows little to no pasture growth at this time. Cow-calf pairs are rapidly moving towards a deficit situation in terms of feed resources. A typical response would be to offer supplemental hay or grain to cows to help them maintain acceptable production. Feeding hay is a viable option if you have available supplies. Dry conditions throughout the Corn Belt have made feeding corn or other by-products to cows a costlier option.
If you are purchasing grain to supplement your herd, it always seemed to make more sense to feed a growing calf rather than a mature cow to compensate for feed shortages. The typical historic response would be to offer creep feed to calves to reduce some of the nutritional demands of the lactating cow. While creep feeding may make us feel better about how we are treating our cows and calves, research has shown us that creep feeding is an inefficient use of expensive feed resources.
Numerous research trials have shown the feed conversion rate for creep feeding at approximately 8-9 lbs. of creep feed for a pound of gain. The practice of early weaning of calves (any time after 60-75 days of age) offers a more efficient use of our feed dollars. Research trials at Ohio State's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center consistently show feed conversion rates of 4-5 lbs. of feed for a pound of gain associated with higher energy diets fed to early weaned calves up to 205 days of age (http://www.joe.org/joe/2007february/rb6.php). Even with rising feed costs, profitable gains can be associated with early weaning given the current outlook for feeder calf prices. The other major benefit with early weaning is the fact that dry cows will consume at least 20-25% less feed than a lactating cow which can help stretch feed resources.
There are challenges associated with early weaning. Close attention must be paid to the feeding program as the young calves have special nutritional needs and a proper diet must be provided. It is necessary that the producer provides a sound health program. Consult with your local veterinarian to address respiratory, clostridial, and other issues. However, the most common excuse that I hear against early weaning is the need to have an extra pasture or drylot to wean cattle with good fence, easy access to water, and feed bunks. Now is not the time for excuses!