See UF/IFAS recommendations for beef cattle producers during a drought.
The rainy season has finally begun in Florida, and like most everyone in The Sunshine State’s ag industry, beef cattle producers are issuing a sigh of relief. Florida’s beef cattle producers rely heavily on forages, and drought means that forages don’t do well. I shared a blog about the dangers of nitrate poisoning from consuming nitrogen-treated forages during drought conditions, and a comment on social media wondered why anyone in Florida would need such information. This last May and June proved that drought can hit Florida, with the U.S. Drought Monitor showing ‘Severe Drought’ levels all through May in Central Florida. Beef cattle producers with longer memories will tell you drought certainly has occurred in the past—and likely will again in the future. With that in mind, explore these suggestions from UF/IFAS on raising beef cattle in drought, via a South Florida Beef-Forage Program article.
Considerations for Beef Cattle Producers During Drought
According to the article, there are several areas for evaluation for beef cattle producers during a drought. They are summarized below:
- Stocking Rates Based on Forage Availability. “When evaluating stocking rates, one must consider if the forage will be able to recover when moisture returns to the pasture. Pasture grass or forage should not become scarce every time that there is a shortage of moisture…Proper nutritional inputs should also be applied to pastures during high stress times, such as a drought, to assist the forage production and health.”
- Culling Cattle. “Producers need to make a cattle culling decision based on what is best for the operation now and in the future. By culling cattle you will in turn have more available forage for the animals you keep…Culling dry cows who did not raise a calf may assist in the improvement in reproductive rates in the future.”
- Early Weaning. “During a drought situation weaning weights are almost always adversely affected. Some options to offset the decreased weaning weight are to creep feed the calves prior to weaning or to wean early and feed the calves separate from the cows.”
- Supplemental Feeding. “Hay or forage is traditionally the first supplementation of choice. If you chose to supplement with a grain it can require skill or discipline by management. A grain feed with a protein concentration between 10 and 12 percent is usually adequate,” though different animals, such as pregnant versus not, will have different nutritional requirements.
- Heat Stress. “Some signs of stress include crowding under shade or trees or in ponds or around water troughs. Cattle may also begin to salivate more and exhibit open-mouthed or rapid breathing. Some ways to minimize the effects of the heat and drought would be to make sure cattle have adequate shade to reduce heat stress. If animals are to be confined shade, fans, sprinklers and drinking water would be a way to reduce heat and stress.”
- Reduction of Drinking Water Resources. “If ponds or other natural water sources begin to dry up, other sources of water must be supplied.”
- Pasture Weeds. “With a lack of forage, animals are more apt to eat plants that they normally would not. The best way to ensure that animals are not exposed to poisonous plants is to view pastures weekly and remove any unwanted plants through mechanical or chemical methods.”
Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.
Image courtesy of Ryan Thompson/U.S. Department of Agriculture.