Experts Respond to Drought Questions


Experiencing drought stress? Watch recording of webinar for beef producers.
On July 29, the Beef Cattle Research Council hosted a webinar that allowed beef producers to ask drought-related questions to a panel of nutrition and animal health experts. Producers asked for everything from recommendations for grazing canola, how to manage for antinutritional factors, tips on ammoniation and to how to manage grass into the fall. While questions were varied and diverse, a few main themes emerged.

Feed testing:

In a drought year, testing your feed sources is more important than ever. Especially when using alternative feed sources, a feed test allows you to understand what you have in terms of energy and protein and therefore what you will need to supplement to maintain the health and body condition of cows and other classes of cattle. A feed test will also identify some of the antinutritional factors and potential toxic levels of substances such as nitrates or sulfates that are more prevalent in drought years or unconventional feeds. Feed tests can be performed on standing or swathed crops, bales or silage. A feed test can be instrumental in determining how a particular feed will fit into your overall feeding strategy. Continue reading

Drought-Related Resources for Cattle Producers

General

Experts Respond To Drought QuestionsBlog Post with Webinar Recording – August 10, 2021
Includes key points and the full recording of a webinar held on July 29, 2021 that answered producer questions about feeding cattle during a drought. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/expert-responses-to-drought-questions/

Decision Making During Drought – Blog Post – August 18, 2021
Considerations that may be helpful when making herd decisions such as culling, early weaning and winter feeding. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/decision-making-during-drought/

Drought Management Strategies – Topic Webpage
A complete overview that covers many producer considerations during and after a drought. Includes links to additional resources and calculators.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/droughtmanagement

Resources for Drought Management – Blog Post – April 29, 2021
Includes 8 tips for dealing with drought as well as links to BCRC and other resources that producers may find useful while in a drought.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/resources-for-drought-management/

Feed Value, Options and Quality

Salvaging a Crop? Here Are Some Things to Consider When Valuing a Crop for Feed – Blog Post and Calculator – July 23, 2021
Intended to aid producers when determining the value of salvaged crop for feed.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/salvaging-a-crop-here-are-some-things-to-consider-when-valuing-a-crop-for-feed/
* Note: Potential residue from chemical use should be a consideration. Download the VBP+ Salvaging Damaged Crops for Livestock Feed Fact Sheet.

Feed Testing & Analysis for Beef Cattle – Topic Webpage and Interactive Decision Tool
It is essential, especially in drought conditions, that producers test their feed and balance rations accordingly. This webpage includes information on how and why to test feed as well as an interactive calculator. Producers can input their feed test results to determine whether the feed should be supplemented based on the group of cattle they plan to feed it to. **It is important to note this tool does not take into account other antinutritional factors (e.g. nitrates and sulfates) that can be a more common problem with alternative feeds.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/feed-value-estimator.cfm

Alternative Feeds – Topic Webpage
With drought being so widespread, producers will be turning to different crops to help get them through the fall and winter. This webpage includes information on things to consider when feeding alternatives as well as specific information on many of the feed sources producers may be considering. http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/alternative-feeds-100

Winter Feed Cost Comparison Calculator – Excel Calculator
This Excel-based calculator allows producers to compare cattle diets on a low-cost basis. It is not designed for balancing rations. https://www.beefresearch.ca/files/xls/Winterfeed_Cost_Calc_Final_Locked.xlsx

Water

Test Stock Water to Reduce Worry Blog Post – May 19, 2021
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/test-stock-water-reduce-worry/
What’s in Your Stock Water – Blog Post – August 27, 2019
https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/whats-in-your-stock-water/
These two blog posts include information on why and how to test, where to send samples, and how to interpret results.

Water Systems for Beef Cattle Topic Webpage
Includes graphics on water quality and things to consider when setting up a new or temporary water source, as well as information on different types of watering systems.  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/water-systems-for-beef-cattle-104

What’s in your Water? Water Quality and the Economics of Pump Systems WebinarWebinar Recorded March 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRixe81liXU&t=328s

Feed and Water Testing DemonstrationVideo Recorded August 2020
2020 Canadian Beef Industry Conference Bov-Innovation Session
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY9apaZs1rw

Additional Resources

Pregnancy Detection ­– Topic Webpage
With low feed supplies, producers may consider early culling of open animals. This webpage includes information on pregnancy detection as well as a calculator that allows producers to determine whether preg checking will pay off on their operation.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/pregnancy-detection-90

Mycotoxins ­– Topic Webpage
Many producers may be turning to feeds they aren’t used to feeding this fall. Mycotoxins are more of a risk in wet conditions but they still can be present when it is dry as well. This page includes information on mycotoxins, testing, and what producers can do about them:  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/mycotoxins-94

Creep Feeding – Blog Post – August 20, 2015
Nutritionist John McKinnon explains how creep feeding can reduce stress on cows during a drought and what to consider when making the decision to creep feed.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/creep-feeding-mckinnon/

Body Condition Topic Webpage and Blog Post – October 19, 2021 
With short feed supplies it can be tempting to feed cows lower quality or less feed. Dropping body condition in cattle, especially those in later pregnancy in the fall and winter, can have negative effects on animal welfare, herd productivity, and long-term economics. This webpage includes information on how to accurately score body condition, the risks of low body condition scores, and a calculator producers can input numbers into to determine the economic effects of changing body condition scores in their herds. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/optimum-condition-maximum-production/
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/body-condition-scoring.cfm

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Salvaging a crop? Here are some things to consider when valuing a crop for feed.



With moderate to severe drought in many areas of Canada and the northern United States, many beef producers are looking for alternative feed sources to get their cattle through the coming months. With drought causing lower crop yields, many beef producers are hoping to work with neighbouring farmers to graze, bale, or silage crops. The question is how to value that feed in a way that provides value to both the farmer and the cattle producer.

When considering salvaging crops for feed, beef producers need to consider accessibility, availability, yield, transport costs, potential anti-nutritional factors or other animal health impacts, and feed quality. On the other hand, farmers are thinking about residue management, long term land impacts, contracted crop acres, costs to harvest, etc. When establishing prices, it is important to be clear in your communications about what each party hopes to gain as well as each party’s responsibilities. While grazing cattle on crop land or residues isn’t new, the salvaging of crops may put some unique options on the table for 2021.

The value of crops for livestock feeds calculator was developed to help beef producers work with their neighbors to determine a value for salvaged crops. For example, a barley field with 14 bu/acre of grain at current prices of $7.95/bushel results in a grain value of $111.30/acre. When you subtract the costs of combining the field ($32.33/acre according to the Saskatchewan Custom and Rental Rates Guide from August 2020) the harvest value is $78.97/acre. This provides a starting price to be considered. If a crop is being sold to a livestock producer as greenfeed, there is also the value of the straw.  Continue reading

Experiencing Drought Stress? Ask the Experts



Large parts of Canada and the Northern Great Plains are currently facing mild to severe drought. With feed supplies low and demand high you may be considering non-traditional feeds for your cattle. If you are thinking about grazing something new, questioning your water quality, wondering about animal health concerns you should be watching out for, considering purchasing greenfeed from non-traditional crops, or have general questions about managing cattle during a drought, here is your chance to get answers straight from the experts.

The BCRC is putting together a panel of nutrition and animal health experts to answer your drought-related nutrition questions. Questions will be answered live during an upcoming webinar on July 29th at 7:00pm MST. Continue reading

Resources for Drought Management


dry dugout in Canadian pasture
Recurring drought is a natural part of the climate in many areas of Canada and creates a challenge when managing grazing and forage resources. Although droughts are often unpredictable, they are inevitable, meaning they are often at the back of every producer’s mind. Long-term farm and ranch management must include planning for and consideration of how drought will affect the entire system – including plants, livestock and water sources.

Eight tips for drought management

    • When managing through a drought, consider combining groups of animals to encourage grazing of less desirable plants and grazing pastures with species that are more tolerant of increased grazing pressure. It is important to monitor for toxic or poisonous plants, which are more likely to be grazed during dry years.
    • Sources of water for grazing animals can quickly become limited or unavailable during drought periods. It is recommended that any pastures that could possibly run out of water be grazed first. In some cases, it may become necessary to use a portable stock water supply in order to continue grazing a forage source where water has become limited.
    • Continue reading

Drought Management Strategies

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Drought Management Strategies page, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, ensuring that information remains freely available online. Completion is expected by Spring 2020.

Recurring drought is a natural part of the climate in many areas of Canada and creates a challenge when managing grazing and forage resources. Although droughts are often unpredictable, they are inevitable in many regions, so long-term farm and ranch management must include planning for and consideration of how drought will affect the entire system – including plants, livestock and water sources.

Tips for drought management

  • The benefits of rotational grazing and litter (plant residue) are especially evident during drought
  • When managing through a drought consider combining groups of animals to encourage grazing of less desirable plants, and grazing pastures with species that are more tolerant of increased grazing pressure
  • Extended rest periods and increased recovery times are necessary to protect plants during dry periods
  • Feed testing and water testing are especially important during times of drought
  • Drought plans should identify the group or class of livestock to be de-stocked first if necessary and at what point each group will be removed if the drought persists
  • It is important to monitor for toxic or poisonous plants, which are more likely to be grazed during dry years
  • Drought management strategies should be a permanent part of every grazing plan

Continue reading