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Drought Management Strategies

Due to the current drought conditions in several parts of the country, we’ve pulled this article from our archives. It was originally posted in July 2015.

For timely timely information on weather and climate relevant to the agricultural sector in Canada, visit Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Watch webpage

Whether in the form of pasture, stored forage, or supplements, feed is the largest variable input cost in cow-calf operations. A big challenge is to feed the cow in a way that meets her current and future nutritional requirements for maintenance, lactation, maintaining a successful pregnancy, giving birth and getting rebred within 80-85 days of calving as cost effectively as possible. This challenge is obviously much greater during drought, when feed is scarce and expensive.

Aside from moisture, one thing that will help keep you and your cows from experiencing a wreck this summer is knowledge. We’ve pulled together a good list of resources that can help you and your herd get through the drought.

So pour yourself a coffee or an iced tea, and delve into the links below. After a few hours of reading, you’ll likely have a few new plans to keep your cows and grass in good shape, and to keep from shelling out more money for feed or vet bills than need be this year and down the road.

Let us know if the information you’re seeking isn’t here, or if we’re missing some valuable information you’ve found elsewhere so that we can add those links to this list.

Pasture and range management strategies:

Toxic plants such as spotted water hemlock, poison hemlock, seaside arrow-grass, death camas, tall and low larkspur and timber milk-vetch can be a particular risk in dry years. If they’re the only thing left in the pasture, they may get eaten.

Other toxin risks: Stressed plants can accumulate high levels of toxic compounds and stored feed eventually deteriorates. When ponds evaporate, the minerals left behind can reach dangerous levels.

Creep feeding helps weaning weights when pasture conditions and milk production are poor

Early weaning can take nutritional pressure off the cow and grazing pressure off the pasture.

Drylotting cows may be an option if feed grain is more economical than forage.

Nutritional management: the cow’s nutrient requirements don’t change when feed is short.

Crop residues and alternative feeds present both opportunities and challenges.

Watering Systems: water may need to be brought to the cattle if they are grazing crop or hay land.

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