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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

What to do with forage shortages

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This year has been marked with many memorable weather moments.

We have had a thick layer of ice, excessive rain and tornadoes, high heat and now a lack of rain.

All of this combined has caused several problems associated with plant growth. For instance, we have had conifer dieback issues, hail damage on crops and now many farmers are worrying about a shortage of forage this year.

Though we may not be at the same level of a forage shortage as areas like Texas, we do have some farmers locally who are concerned about not having enough forage for their cattle and horses this winter.

This short supply can cause prices of hay to rise, thus preventing farmers from being able to purchase hay to supplement what hay they were able to produce.

Ultimately, there are no cheap, easy fixes for farmers who have limited hay supply. Instead, they will have to make some decisions on how to best utilize what they do have.

At this time, farmers should be making decision on selling cows, planning for alternative feeding strategies, minimizing hay waste, limiting feeding and utilizing crop residues.

When short forage supplies are present, it is a great time to consider culling cows that lost their offspring, open cows, older cows, unsound cows and poor performing animals. You can also cull cows that are causing you to have an extended calving season.

If you are unsure if your cows are open, you can have them pregnancy checked by a large animal veterinarian. Selling cull cows early will increase your chances of receiving a higher price at market.

Two alternative feeding strategies farmers should consider are to use crop residues as roughage resources by allowing animals to graze it while supplementing with byproducts or to treat low quality forages with anhydrous ammonia to increase the protein content. When using the crop residues, you can supplement with corn byproducts to help increase the energy and protein.

Research has shown that you can minimize hay waste by limiting the hours of access cows have to forage.

The final result of the research indicate that allowing cows only four-eight hours per day of access to moderate quality, large round bales can reduce hay needs by 17-37 percent without hurting performance.

Another alternative would be to limit daily hay intake by utilizing a properly formulated grain-mix.

This would be similar to utilizing a feedlot finishing diet.

If you have corn stover available, you can consider harvesting it and feed it with a supplemental byproduct later in the year. It is more economical to graze corn stover in the field than harvesting it as large round bales.

However, if you cannot allow your animals in the field to graze, baling the corn stover would at least allow you to utilize it later on in the year.

As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Sept. 20 -- Owen County Extension Board meeting,

* Sept. 23 -- Tentative date for the Nature Bowl at the Clay County Fairgrounds,

* Sept. 30 -- Entry deadline for Indiana Beef Evaluation Program. For more information, log on to www.ansc.purdue/edu/ibep/, and

* Oct. 4 -- Clay County Extension Board meeting.