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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
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Management in a Drought: Part 1

Posted by Travis Meteer - Drought

We were thankful yesterday to see rain clouds here at the Orr Research Center, but we would have certainly welcomed them to stay a lot longer. Much of Illinois has experienced some level of drought stress this spring. The lack of moisture has definitely had a negative effect on pastures.

We are accustom to heavier stocking rates and more plentiful forages in the spring in the Corn Belt. This year we had earlier green-up and, in most cases, earlier turn out. However, the moisture hasn't been there and we have depleted much of that forage ahead of normal schedule.

Due to these circumstances, producers need to consider management practices to adjust to lower forage availability. There are many strategies producers can deploy in times of dry weather. The ultimate goal of any of these strategies is to reduce stocking rate and relieve grazing pressure. Here are some strategies for managing low forage availability:

  • Move Cows to other Forage
  • Creep Feeding
  • Early Weaning
  • Supplementing Cows with Alternative Feeds
  • Culling Cows
  • Herd Liquidation


Having other forage sources available in times of dry weather is always the best plan. Hay ground that can be grazed, summer annuals following small grains, and crop residues to relieve pastures in the fall are all options. Any time beef producers can avoid hand feeding or feeding purchased feed, profitability will be better maintained.

Having a rotational grazing system in place also boosts a producer's ability to stay on grass during long periods of dry weather. Rotational systems increase utilization of the forage and rest periods let the grass recover. Managed grazing can be a focal point to not only increasing beef production per acre, but also giving you more flexibility in dealing with weather.

Other sources of forage or better utilizing the forage you have available are important strategies in dealing with a lack of forage availability. More blog posts will come with information on Creep Feeding, Early Weaning, Supplementing Cows with Alternative Feeds, and Culling Cows.

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