Feeding Cattle During Drought

All of GA has seen some level of drought this summer. Down here, we have been fortunate to get recent rains from afternoon thunderstorms recently. In any case, drought affects hay producers by not having pastures to graze and also not being able to harvest hay. With the ebbs and flows of cattle industry, UGA Extension Animal Scientist Dr. Lawton Stewart has some information on managing to minimize effects of drought on farm’s finances. It is important to maintain the nutrient requirements of the herd through a drought so animal performance is not compromised in upcoming seasons.

What if hay is not available? The key is to develop a ration that meets the nutrient requirements of the cows. 

  • The stage of production of your herd is critical to knowing exactly what to feed.  Table 1 lists some example rations to use for different stages of production.
  • Consider early weaning to reduce the nutrient requirements of the brood cows.
  • Utilize a roughage source such as wheat straw, conttonseed hulls, crop residue, grazing drought stressed crops, gin trash.
  • Examples of energy and/or byproduct feed include: grains such as corn, oats, etc., soybean hulls, citrus pulp, wheat midds, hominy.
  • Examples of protein feed include: soybean meal, cottonseed meal, corn gluten feed, dried distillers grains, whole cottonseed.

FeedingCattleDuringDrought-Table1

Is buying hay the economic choice?

  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask for a forage analysis and/or test the hay before purchasing it.  If not, you may be paying a premium for something that will not meet the requirements of your cows.
  • Take into consideration the cost of the supplement AND hay.
  • Also, take into consideration the method of feeding hay.  If hay is not fed in a ring or other way to minimize lost, hay losses can be as high as 30%, or more.
  • Table 2 compares the cost of buying hay versus feeding a hay replacement diet
  • Note that if hay is being wasted, it is more economical to buy a replacement ration.  This is point is not necessarily to steer you towards the feed, more so, to show the value of proper handling of purchased hay.

FeedingCattleDuringDrought-Table2

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