Beef producers should be making plans regarding their herds in case drought conditions continue, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Dr. Jason Banta, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, Overton, said a shortage of forage and hay could mean producers will be forced to reduce herd numbers. Having a plan to cull herds can save producers money in the short- and long-term.
Banta said there was very little hay carryover from last year due to the extended winter. Cooler than normal temperatures into spring also meant the first hay cutting, which is typically one of the best, was subpar.
Producers should adjust stocking rates to avoid overgrazing pastures, Banta said. If moisture is received overgrazing makes it more difficult for grasses to recover.
To capitalize on rain, producers should consider keeping a nitrogen fertilizer source with low volatility on better-producing pastures, Banta said. Ammonium nitrate can sit on fields for several weeks with very little or no volatilization concerns.
Banta said the U.S. cattle herd is the biggest it’s been since 2009 so producers need to maximize the value of culls amid lower prices. Poor body conditions can mean even lower prices and lower weights.Taking culls to market in good condition can help maximize dollars per head.
Cows with problems, such as bad udders, bad feet, a bad eye or temperament should always be the first to go.
If additional herd reduction is needed, the list below presents one option:
- Virgin replacement heifers
- Late calvers
- 2 year old cows (they have the lowest reproductive rates)
- 3 year old cows
- Mature cows (least affected by difficult conditions)
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