As you receive this newsletter, the winter feeding system will likely already be upon us. For those of you who have not yet contracted supplemental feed resources or all your yearly supplemental feed needs, a few things to consider as you do:
- I encourage you to objectively assess your pasture/hay conditions as part of your supplemental feeding program. The summer drought was difficult to say the least, but the Lord has blessed many of us with fall rains and warmer than usual temps, so depending upon your specific management, you may have more pasture available now than at any point during the growing season. Experience should tell us the long-lasting impact of a major drought can be even more detrimental than the drought itself. Although some may think, “too little, too late,” pasture management should continue to be a priority, especially if native perennial pasture is a major component of the forage base. If not able to insulate itself, winter kill is a definite concern for most forage species, which, if this occurs, will greatly shift forage availability and species for the upcoming spring/summer. If possible, defer short pasture – especially native – less than 4-5 inches as long as you can, even if it means starting the feeding season early and/or purchasing additional roughage (hay, silage, cotton burs, etc.). In these situations, money spent now on feed resources will most likely be offset with less input costs (i.e. fertilizer, herbicide, seed, etc.) and more sustained pasture in the years to come.
- Keep in mind animal nutrient requirements are primarily related to age and stage of production. For older cows with young calves, grazing short pasture is a recipe that will bake poor conception rates into next year in the form of open- or later-calving cows. Producers who make it out of this drought to produce another day will have planned for it and managed through it. Understanding how animal requirements change through the feeding season is part of this prudent management. Protein and energy are both common and key nutrients to supplement during the winter, but have varying effects on forage intake. In years that forage/hay is not as limited, it may not be as important. But please know: supplementing a high-protein feedstuff will drive forage/hay intake and, if these resources are limited, could emphasize an already problematic situation. It might be worth a visit with your feed rep and/or a trusted individual to determine which feedstuffs are right for your situation this year.
- Just a few more points to consider:
- If you haven’t already done so, test your hay and balance Points 1 and 2 with the results.
- Keep a well-balanced mineral out at all times. Not just calcium and phosphorus, but micro-minerals, as well.
- Keep in mind that, even though we have been blessed with rain, most of Oklahoma is two weeks from a drought.
- Even though calf prices are good and projected to stay that way for the foreseeable future, we need to have a culling plan ready in the event this drought persists into 2023.