The drought of 2011 was unfavorable, to say the least. Unfortunately, many areas continue to face hardships due to the lack of precipitation in 2012. The potential return of an El Niño weather pattern this fall brings hope for the end of drought conditions, but the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook through Nov. 30, 2012, suggests the drought will persist or intensify in many areas of the Southern Great Plains. With guarded optimism, the following management practices will help you prepare for winter.
Sell all open cows
Early identification and removal of open cows should be top priority. With scarce and costly pasture, feed and hay, it is not economical to maintain these females. For example, annual cow costs averaged $450 per head in 2011 as reported by participants in the Integrity Beef Producer Alliance. This average will likely be higher for 2012. A cow that does not produce a calf in 2013 will not overcome that expense. You should also consider further culling, using a logical culling protocol. For more information, see Guidelines for Culling Cows at www.noble.org/ag/livestock/ culling cows.
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Evaluate feeding programs and associated costs
Feed and hay prices are increasing. Table 1 shows the quantity of daily supplement required by a spring-calving cow when fed in combination with either low quality (LQ) or average quality (AQ) hay. LQ hay used in this example is assumed to test 5 percent crude protein. The AQ hay, 8 percent crude protein, is also evaluated and illustrates that substantial cost savings can result from knowing the nutritional value of your hay. Both hay types in this example are priced at $120 per ton. In this example, supplement is not needed when a cow is fed AQ hay. Whether considering hay for purchase or evaluating hay on hand, it is critical to analyze the hay for nutritive quality. For more information on hay testing, see www.noble.org/ drought/tips/livestock.
Supplements used in this example are 20 percent cubes (bagged) currently priced at $370 per ton, alfalfa hay priced at $240 per ton and a 50:50 blend of soybean hulls and bagged corn gluten feed (SBH/ CGF) priced at $320 per ton. There are many other commercial feeds and by-product blends that could be used. Always evaluate alternative feedstuffs available to you that will meet your animals’ needs. For more information on evaluating alternative feedstuffs, please see Managing Feed Costs at www.noble.org/ag/ economics/managing-feed-costs.