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Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Mon May 22, 2017 1:52 pm
by LCP
Been a dry spring here so we are selling about 30% of our cows tomorrow. Everything that had not calved plus a few pairs. We may sell down some more in a few weeks when we work calves if the weather doesn't change significantly. This is the first year since I have had a significant financial interest (I've always had sweat equity!) in the operation that we have had to destock due to drought. So it is a learning experience. We have yet to turn our replacement heifers out to grass, and are thinking very seriously about keeping them in a drylot for the summer (our place or somewhere with a cheaper feed base). I'm looking at using the proceeds from tomorrow's sale to pay down operating debt and partner on some feeder cattle with a trusted associate in another part of the state that isn't so dry.

What are some of the actions or decisions you have made in the face of drought that worked well? What are some things you would avoid?

And does anyone know where I can find cheap hay for sale in north central SD? :D

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Mon May 22, 2017 4:29 pm
by GM888
we sent cattle 800 miles away in 2002 drought. Neighbor sold all cows older then 6. No feed so we hired a guy to custom feed cows and in the spring BSE hit .I realize that was un lucky but we were caught with some big bills and a lot of cows we maybe should of shipped. My neighbor seemed to make out better. Swore I would always cull rather then add expense. Not advice but just a personal experience

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Mon May 22, 2017 6:37 pm
by Faster horses
I have heard from others that sent cattle a long ways to feed that they wished they had checked on them often.
Sorry to hear of your dilemma. Hope it rains soon. Good luck!

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Mon May 22, 2017 8:00 pm
by Traveler
If you have some farming, or access to, during drought times it can help you hold your cow herd together. Grazing or haying wheat, etc...just don't wait too long to hay wheat. Some forage crops may surprise you what they can do with some subsoil moisture and not a lot else. Or if you usually run yearlings, you can send them down the road and try to hold on to the cows. Nothing brilliant, just some practices we have used.

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Mon May 22, 2017 9:39 pm
by LCP
Traveler wrote:If you have some farming, or access to, during drought times it can help you hold your cow herd together. Grazing or haying wheat, etc...just don't wait too long to hay wheat. Some forage crops may surprise you what they can do with some subsoil moisture and not a lot else. Or if you usually run yearlings, you can send them down the road and try to hold on to the cows. Nothing brilliant, just some practices we have used.


How long is too long? Have one neighbor talking of cutting his winter wheat as soon as it heads and they can get it appraised for crop insurance. It's in the boot now. Is that soon enough or no?

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 5:25 am
by Traveler
LCP wrote:
Traveler wrote:If you have some farming, or access to, during drought times it can help you hold your cow herd together. Grazing or haying wheat, etc...just don't wait too long to hay wheat. Some forage crops may surprise you what they can do with some subsoil moisture and not a lot else. Or if you usually run yearlings, you can send them down the road and try to hold on to the cows. Nothing brilliant, just some practices we have used.


How long is too long? Have one neighbor talking of cutting his winter wheat as soon as it heads and they can get it appraised for crop insurance. It's in the boot now. Is that soon enough or no?
It makes a lot better hay if you can get it before it heads. The longer you wait the more it ends up like straw.

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 6:32 am
by WB
I wouldn't be afraid to let the wheat head out. If you have farm ground a person can raise a lot of feed as it is still early. I think when it comes to destocking that there are a lot of variables that different operations have to deal with. Yearlings for example can be moved, drylotted, fed out etc. late calvers are a no no in these drier years.

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 7:13 am
by Cowpuncher
We went through a drought in 2002. No moisture the whole winter. The winter wheat never greened up.

We were still feeding the cows in June and July. We bought feed, though it was getting scarce and costly.

Some of the neighbors sold their entire herds and never bought a bale of hay or pound of cake.

At some point in July - very late it rained. Actually, quite a bit. The grass came alive and the cattle flourished.

Summer crops of sorghum also did well and we were able to get enough feed to get us into the next year.

At weaning time, the calves were heavier than ever and the prices were pretty good.

We collected some crop insurance on the wheat - no profit in wheat, but we got our input costs back.

All said and done, we survived, but never made a cent.

The neighbors that sold their herd are working for wages now.

We had a huge tax loss for the year and it earned us and IRS audit. I have an accounting degree and we
had to pay some $840 in tax - not a biggie. They were wrong, but it was worth it to get them to go away.

We have sold our ranch and live in retirement quite comfortably.

Question: What would we have done if it has not rained in late July and August. It would not have been pretty.
But as a Harvard MBA said "It is better to be lucky than smart."

Can't tell anyone else what to do. Who knows if you are going to be lucky?

CP

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 1:15 pm
by Traveler
Image

This is some carry-over wheat hay. It was green and succulent when it was cut and hadn't much more than headed. The cows don't care for it that much, and not real palatable, but will make a turd. Believe me when I say it's better to cut it sooner than later.

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 6:36 pm
by Denny
Traveler wrote:Image

This is some carry-over wheat hay. It was green and succulent when it was cut and hadn't much more than headed. The cows don't care for it that much, and not real palatable, but will make a turd. Believe me when I say it's better to cut it sooner than later.


I'd chop it and make haylage headed out would make the most tonnage.

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 10:17 pm
by Faster horses
Denny wrote:
Traveler wrote:Image

This is some carry-over wheat hay. It was green and succulent when it was cut and hadn't much more than headed. The cows don't care for it that much, and not real palatable, but will make a turd. Believe me when I say it's better to cut it sooner than later.


I'd chop it and make haylage headed out would make the most tonnage.


I know nothing about chopping and haylage, but for regular cuttings, I know that the earlier you cut it, the more nutrition is in it, or in any and all hay for that matter. If you feed a lot of wheat hay, it has a lot of phos, so get mineral with less phos so the cows will continue to get their micro minerals. We had customers that fed only wheat hay and those cows experienced Winter Tetnany, due to the fact phos is a limiter. With high phos, they weren't eating the regular mineral at the requirement, so their body was getting out of balance. They changed to lower phos and the cows stopped having the symptoms.

Re: Drought actions & advice?

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 10:45 pm
by Big Muddy rancher
Check for nitrates on drought stressed crops.
Good luck on what ever you do, drought is no fun for sure. We look to be headed that way ourselves.