Heat stress can greatly impact cattle producers through decreased milk production and subsequent calf growth, decreased reproductive performance in cows and bulls, and decreased stocker and feeder performance. It has been estimated that heat-related events in the Midwest have cost the cattle industry over $75 million in the past 10 years.
We lived through a significant drought in 2006. Some much-needed winter precipitation has lessened our fears, but some forecasts still call for drier than "normal" weather starting in May. Normal? Who knows what "normal" is?
Severe drought made 2006 one of the worst years on record for pastures and crops in our area, and some of the effects of the drought will still be felt in 2007.
The National Drought Monitor Web site indicates the area is in either extreme or exceptional drought. As if not having adequate good-quality water for cow herds isn't bad enough, there is little to no available standing forage going into winter at a time of record-high hay prices.
Pastures are quickly burning up due to the heat and dry conditions, resulting in ranchers quickly running out of grazeable pasture that provides the necessary energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. Since the drought is covering such a large area, accessible supplemental hay and available rental pasture is not abundant in nearby areas.
Unless we have an atypically wet summer, many producers will be forced to implement some drought management strategies, if they have not already. Here are a couple of topics to keep in mind looking forward to the remaining summer.
Drought is a dirty word around these parts. A project between the Noble Research Institute and Texas A&M University hopes to help regional producers with a system to forecast probable forage growth conditions up to 90 days in the future.
Are you flexible enough to manage for that unspeakable term ... drought?
I've thrown my crystal ball away for good and vowed never to predict the weather again - but I will share with you my five weather-related strategies for 2004.
Pastures should have a surplus of forage as of mid-July, either as standing forage or hay if reserves are not adequate to pasture cattle through the remainder of the growing season, then alternatives need to be evaluated.