|MMM 369||August 7, 1998|
When feed resources are getting short, one solution is to critically
evaluate the members of the herd and eliminate those that are
not working but are using up your resources. Reduce your herd
size to what you feel your planned resources will support. Critically
evaluate the physical attributes of the individual cows. Consider
culling those cows with bad physical attributes - udders, legs,
eyes, etc. Cull the cows on their reproduction efficiency. Palpate
the herd and cull the open cows. Next, look at your records and
cull those cows who have not calved every 12 months or are extremes
(too early or too late) in your breeding and calving season.
If you are on a herd performance records program, you will
have MPPA (Most Probable Producing Ability) values on your cows.
This will rank the cows from the most productive to the least
productive for calf weaning weight and calving interval. MPPA
will give each cow a fair evaluation of her calves' weaning performance
relative to the entire herd regardless. This will help you eliminate
the lower producing cows in the herd. If available, use post weaning
data collected on the cows to make further cuts if necessary.
Critically evaluate the replacement heifer crop. Decide what is the minimum number of heifers you will need next year and sell the rest. Also, evaluate your bulls. If they are getting old and need to be replaced, sell them now and plan on purchasing a better bull before next breeding season.
Cattle at all ages are affected by a diversity of internal
and external parasites. Cattle under nutritional and heat stress
are less resistant to parasites than under normal conditions.
Strategic deworming during a drought will relieve some of the
nutritional stress on the animal and "clean up" the
herd for the fall and winter. There are many dewormers on the
market that come in various forms: mixed in salt and supplements,
injectable, pour-on, bolus, paste or drench. Consult your veterinarian
for help developing a quality health program
Heifers and calves are not able to compete with mature cattle
for pasture or supplemental feed. Drought feed is costly and it
is important to feed only those animals who really need it. Segregating
animals gives each class a better chance of getting needed feed
supplies. Vulnerable classes can be segregated and given preferential
treatment. The older dry cows can be moved to the poorer forage
Planning ahead for times of drought or disaster can go a long
way to help you preserve the genetic base and profitability of
your herd. If your forage is depleted rapidly every time there
is a dry spell, the farm is over stocked. However, if there is
plenty of low quality forage after the drought then the farm is
understocked. Your operation should be somewhere in between. It
would also be appropriate to plan for rough times throughout the
year by keeping 60 days of reserve hay other than what you need
for your winter needs.
South Carolina beef producers depend on summer pasture and
hay fields for summer and winter feeds. They can be especially
hard pressed during a drought. The various forage species differ
greatly in their ability to grow under drought conditions. Cool-season
species suffer greatly during a drought. Fescue should not be
grazed during June, July and August. Summer annuals and warm-season
perennials can still produce substantial growth under drought
conditions. You need to have a balance of cool-season and warm-season
forages for your operation.
Soil type and fertility, fencing, handling equipment, seasonal
rain patterns, and the availability of water, fertilizers and
feed play an important role in the carrying capacity of your forage
system. Inventory your resources and evaluate their cost, then
manage your calving season and stockering programs around your
forage system. Time commitment also should be part of the decision
Contract grazing or renting pasture is another drought strategy. But, make sure that the cost of hauling and renting pasture is not more than the cost of purchasing feed necessary to get you through the drought.
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