Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
June 8, 2000

Managing for Drought

The spring season of 2000 provided very little moisture for growing forages for pasture or harvesting as hay. This lack of available forage is spread across much of the central United States. Many producers convey the message that the meadow production is cut by at least 50% compared to normal. The lack of forage is a major concern for many producers, but the present and more pressing issue or culprit is shortage of available water. Without water there is little or no mammalian life.

There are several options that we can adjust to continue maintaining the beef herd from a nutritional standpoint. The alternative without water is nonexistent within a few hours. Since water is the most important nutrient, there are only two options that I can think of. These are either providing water or selling the livestock.

The forage that is available can be stretched several ways. This includes managed grazing, supplementing, early weaning, and culling of the cow herd. I suggest that you start with managed grazing, followed by culling the lower producers, supplementing, and finally by early weaning.

Electric fencing is a cheap and effective method of managing the grazing areas for your livestock. This method increases only slightly the time required, but in a dry season time usually is available and moving livestock requires considerably less effort when compared to hauling water.

Forages need to be harvested when they are in the growing stage. Many individuals are thinking of letting the forage stand and hoping for additional vegetative growth. This may occur, but it depends largely on the amount of rainfall received in the next two weeks. Don’t let the forage stand on the stump until it burns or becomes extremely dry. The nutritional value depletes rapidly to the point you are only feeding straw. Nutritional samples have indicated protein values to be reduced to 3.67% compared to the same specie of cool season grasses harvested at the early stage of 17.1%. Fiber content also increases drastically as maturity proceeds. The fiber factor increases from 31.8% to 53.0% on these same samples. This decrease in nutritional quality definitely has a negative contribution for developing rations.

Be sure to consider the storage area for the large bales of hay. If inside storage is available this reduces storage loss. However, if outside storage is the only storage method available, then select an area that drains well. Place the rows in a north/south direction so exposure to sunlight can reach each side of the bales. Producing even bales with no cone-shaped ends or soft areas is very important. Twine spacing of 4 inches will assist with reducing the spoilage, and setting the baler to provide bale density of twelve to fourteen pounds of hay per cubic foot will permit bale breathing but still reduce the opportunity for spoilage.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - June 8, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT060800.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004