In drought times, thin cattle, dry ponds and low-quality forage are all harsh realities for a beef producer. But cattle scientists at Kansas State University say awareness and further planning this fall are the best defenses when battling the effects of the summer's hot, dry weather conditions.
Dave Nichols, a beef specialist with K-State Research and Extension, says a major concern is the availability of feed supplies, the amount of feed and the quality of those feedstuffs.
"The quality of feed has deteriorated as it has gotten dryer and pastures are drying up," Nichols said. "We are not getting new growth that is digestible."
Kansas producers have been creative in maximizing feed supplies, he said. Some are baling soybeans, a crop that has not done well this year. But Nichols said the problem with this is the major source of nutrition in soybeans is in the leaves.
"If producers do not bale before the leaves fall, there is not much value," Nichols said.
John Brethour, a K-State professor and beef cattle scientist at the Agricultural Research Center-Hays, says cattle are coming off grass thinner than usual. He said proper nutrition will need to be emphasized this winter, in order to catch up on growth.
"Grass quit growing after the first of August and feed supply on pasture has run out," Brethour said. "This means producers will be starting to provide supplemental feed sooner than usual."
Nichols said an option often overlooked by cow-calf operations is to wean calves earlier, which reduces the nutritional demands of the cow and spreads feed resources.
Culling unproductive cattle is another route that can increase the amount of acceptable feed for the replacement heifers and younger cows. Nichols said when feed is scarce, one solution is to check for pregnancy, then cull any open (not pregnant) cows and cows that are over 10 to 12 years old.
"If some of the cows are not pulling their weight, open or ornery, it is time for them to go," Nichols said.