Meeting provides drought information for livestock producers
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 09/10/2012 3:02 PM
ALLISON, Iowa —Iowa State University Extension livestock specialist Russ Euken addressed drought concerns for livestock at an Aug. 8 meeting at the Butler County Extension office in Allison.
"Until we get rain and cooler temperatures, most cool season pastures will not be very productive if they have any growth at all," Euken said. "Consider feeding cows in a sacrifice area or paddock that may need reseeding. If we do get rain, let pastures recover before grazing."
Cow management is important, Euken said. Producers need to monitor body condition scores. If cows are getting thin reproduction may suffer
"If you are providing feed to cows, consider dividing them into groups," Euken said. "First-calf heifers, second-calf and older cows typically need more energy than mature cows."
Short pastures could increase parasite problems so producers should review parasite control, health and mineral programs.
If pasture is available, supplementing 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the cow's body weight with higher energy feed will stretch pastures, Euken said. If cheaper stored forage is available, pulling cows off pasture and full feeding them may make more sense.
"Concentrates/grains, although relatively expensive, may be cheaper than forages per unit of energy supplied," Euken said. "If silage is available, this may be the best option with drought-stressed corn, but you are hauling a lot of water. Make sure to harvest and store correctly at proper moisture and also determine if nitrates will be an issue."
Euken said baling drought-stressed corn may be an option, but nitrates do not decrease with drying.
"Cull animals that have health, lameness, age or other issues," Euken said.
Weaning should be 90 days minimum but 110 to 120 days is better, Euken said. Weaning reduces cow requirements by 30 percent to 40 percent. He recommends vaccinating before weaning to build immunity and creep feeding for 10 days to two weeks ahead of weaning.
Producers should be making plans now for feed needs later.
"If hay supplies or other forages are short, determine a plan for later fall, winter or early spring," Euken said. "In addition to corn silage, corn stalk grazing or harvest, late summer seeded cereal grains or brassicas such as turnips or rape may supply some late fall or early spring forage if we get sufficient moisture."
CRP or WRP acres should provide some low cost forage but determine quality and how it fits a situation. Most grass is about 50 percent total digestible nutrients and approximately 9 percent crude protein at this stage.
"Potential for corn stalks that did not produce much grain to have nitrate levels that may be a concern in grazing or baling corn stalks after harvest," Euken said.
It's still too early to know yields and quality of the corn crop, Euken said.
"Low test weight corn down to 45 pounds per bushel is very close to feed value of normal corn on a pound for pound basis," he said.
There is potential for aflatoxin, but it is too early to determine if there will be a risk.
"If you need to purchase a large amount of feed, consider risk management," Euken said. "Even though supplies are decreasing, higher prices limit demand which also affects price."