Rainfall was scarce over many parts of the Midwest and most of the eastern states this summer, and while some locations have received scattered showers, many areas remain dry. Without summer rains, grasses stop growing after the first cutting of hay and early season grazing.

"Our early season growth was of high quality but limited quantity," says Ed Vollborn, grazing program leader at the South District Office of Ohio State University Extension.

Mr. Vollborn recommends a drought management plan to reduce the need for feed by cutting back on livestock numbers or supplementing alternatives to traditional hay and pasture supplies.

To lower feed demands, producers could pregnancy check and then market old, non-pregnant or poor-performing cows now instead of waiting until later in the fall.

Early weaning of beef calves is another way to reduce the demand for hay and pasture. While weaned calves are traditionally sent to sale barns, feeding early-weaned calves on the farm for 60 to 100 days before taking them to market may be one of the best profit opportunities this year, says Mr. Vollborn. Feeder calves currently are selling for three to four times the feed cost per pound of gain.

"Our tendency is to graze until we run out of usable pasture," says Mr. Vollborn. "Management strategies should be implemented before grass is completely consumed. Grazing regrowth that is only 2 inches tall is foolish since volume will be low and damage to the pasture can be devastating because you damage root reserves."