Tips For Cattle Management Especially In Drought.

Early weaning of calves is a common drought management practice. Removing
calves from cows at approximately 300 pounds or 75 days of age decreases cow
nutritional requirements and gives producers the ability to stretch limited
forage resources. Drought conditions in 2011 are forcing producers to wean
calves early; many of which have already marketed at auction. Supply and
demand principles are in evidence as an increased supply of calves is
decreasing market price. Noble Foundation consultants suggest that early
weaning and preconditioning calves for at least 45 days can still result in
profit. During preconditioning, calves are vaccinated, de-horned, bull
calves are castrated, and all calves are fed for an additional 45 days
post-weaning. Calculate your cost of preconditioning prior to retaining
ownership of calves. For help with budgeting or developing a feeding program
for preconditioned calves, please see Optimizing Weaned Calf Value or call
your Noble Foundation consultant.

Cull cattle

Sell all open, old or injured cows. It is not economical to maintain these
females – particularly when resources such as pasture, feed and hay are
costly and in short supply. The immediate advantage to removing animals from
the herd is that grazing pressure on pastures will be decreased and less
money will be spent on supplemental feed. Additionally, cull cow prices have
remained relatively strong. Selling cull cows now can provide immediate
assistance for producers who are in a difficult cash flow situation.

Drought may also provide the opportunity to make improvements to your cow
herd. Consider tightening up your calving season by selling late calving
cows. Calves born later in the calving season are typically lighter weight
at weaning and less uniform than the calves born earlier in the calving
season. Cull cow marketing reports are available through the Agricultural
Marketing Service.

Evaluate cow herd liquidation costs

Many producers may be tempted to liquidate the cow herd during persistent
drought conditions. However, before selling the herd, compare the cost of
maintaining a cow through the drought and winter months to the cost of
purchasing replacement females next spring. To do so, calculate the cost of
feed and hay on a per-cow basis from now until spring. Add this feed cost to
the current value of cows sold. If the sum of feed cost and cow value is
greater than the cost of buying cattle next spring, then liquidate the cow
herd now and take advantage of tax benefits associated with drought-related
sales. If you decide to maintain ownership of the cow herd, be prepared to
maintain cow numbers for approximately six to eight months. It is not
advantageous to begin feeding cattle through the drought only to sell them
in the fall at seasonally low prices.

Plan ahead

Have a livestock management plan ready for the next step. Consider what you
will do if you run out of pond water or if a well goes dry. Is it an option
to fertilize bermudagrass this fall or plant ryegrass? Think about potential
situations and solutions, and prepare now. Those that plan ahead and are
prepared to act quickly will have the best results

Brown Mang Onwuka

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