Feeding Tactics After a Drought

by James I. Sprague, Ph.D, Nutritionist

After the drought of the summer of 2011, all cattle people, both ranchers and feeders, are searching for ideas to either “hang on” or “bail-out.” The challenge is not only the drought in the South and the Plains of the United States, but also the availability and cost of feed plus severe heat stress on the cow herds and confined cattle. Even with high feed ingredients cost predicted for 2011 and 2012, the value of many cow herds lead operators to find supplemental forages or feeding programs to try to stay in business until moisture returns and new forage crops appear next year.
Cow operators partnering with feedlots
There may be opportunities for cow operators to partner with feedlot or farmers with adequate feed supplies. One program often used is pasturing the cows and bred heifers on corn or milo stalk fields. Farmers will custom graze the cattle for a fee. Certainly protein supplementation is needed for these feeds. Distiller’s grain and corn gluten products fit nicely in these feeding programs for cows and bred heifers. These co-products are valuable to supplement poor quality roughages. There are many feeding programs that will fit these programs. Of course evaluating the cost and returns are critical.
Here is an example of a program. Several years ago, one of our “salty” and inventive clients purchased thin cows and bred heifers in the fall, then fed them on harvested corn stocks plus added grain and supplement through the fall and winter at his feedlot and pastured them at his ranch the following spring and summer. Of course the herd could have been sold in the spring at turn out time.
Question for your nutritionist
Cattle coming to feeding programs after a drought may be thin and deficient in vitamin A and phosphorus. This is an area the consulting nutritionist, veterinarians or trained feed company representatives can give valuable information and suggestions. The cost of vitamins and minerals added to a supplemental feeding program are low compared to the value of the animal. A little extra is usually the suggested program. There is an injectable trace mineral, MultiMin,® on the market that may be used for cattle first brought to the feeding pens. It needs to be injected under the skin and not in the muscle. Consult with your veterinarian on the use of this idea.    ©

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