Consider feed options during drought
With the drought conditions, producers of cow-calf pairs and replacement heifers may wonder what feed options they can plant for grazing or hay, since it looks like they will be short on pasture.
The answer is that there are a lot of different annual forage options available. The following are things that a producer needs to think through in determining which annual forages may work best.
How much water is available to grow forage and when will it be available (e.g., soil moisture, irrigation water, expected precipitation)?
When is the forage needed? Is the shortage this spring or later on into the summer?
What are the nutrient needs of the cattle that will be grazing? Cow-calf pairs at peak lactation have higher nutrient requirements than dry cows or bred heifers.
What is the subsequent land use for the ground that the forage will be grown on?
What forages can you readily get seed for? With the drought of the past two years, seed for some annual forages is in short supply for the 2014 growing season.
How much grazing management will be provided?
What equipment is available for planting and harvest?
Jerry Volesky, range and forage specialist with UNL Extension located at the West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte, wrote an article titled “Grazing and Forage Management in 2013,” (http://droughtresources.unl.edu/2013GrazingManagement) which is a summary of things producers can do to manage range and pasture resources along with utilizing annual forages for 2014.
The webinar “Forage Production with Limited Precipitation or Irrigation” (http://beef.unl.edu/forageproduction-limitedprecip) was also recorded in 2013, and it highlights what forage options are available to producers and how these forages can be used in a production system.