Drought could have lasting impact on livestock production
The extreme heat in recent weeks also could have a negative impact on calving rates, which will affect herds well into next year.
Published: Jul 17, 2012
The severity of this year’s drought will come to light in coming months when farmers combine what’s left of their damaged fields at many locations around the state.
But the impact of the drought likely will be felt in the livestock industry long after this year’s harvest is complete.
Dan Shike, University of Illinois animal scientist, believes a tight supply of feed could force some producers to cull cattle. The extreme heat in recent weeks also could have a negative impact on calving rates, which will affect herds well into next year.
“It’s a critical time in the breeding season for many (cattle producers),” Shike said. “I think we’ll see poorer reproduction” as a result.
“But we won’t fully know the extent of the impact (of the heat and drought) until pregnancy checks (in the fall) or until spring when guys may wonder why their cows aren’t calving.”
The more pressing issue right now for many livestock farmers is poor pasture conditions and smaller hay cuttings. About two-thirds of pastures in the state last week were rated poor or very poor.
“Each producer will have to evaluate his or her situation,” Shike said. “Some cattle probably will be liquidated.”
Shike recommended producers take inventory of their pasture and hay supply.
“Don’t wait until you’re out of grass to figure out what you’re going to do,” he said.
Producers who are running out of grazing area or hay may want to consider culling cows, weaning calves early, and using a variety of co-products (such as distillers grains, wheat straw, or cornstalk bales) to supplement feed rations.
Producers should be careful, though, when feeding drought-damaged corn to livestock.
“One of the biggest concerns is the nitrate level (in drought-damaged corn),” Shike said. “You need to test that.”
Nitrate levels concentrate in the lowest parts of cornstalks. Shike, therefore, recommended producers chop drought-damaged corn about one-third of the way up each stalk.
“Making hay from drought-damaged corn will not reduce nitrate levels,” said Robert Bellm, U of I Extension educator. “Hay made from drought-damaged corn should be tested prior to feeding.”
Ensiling the forage can reduce nitrate levels by 30 to 60 percent, he added.
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