To offset the decrease in forage production, you might be able to plant some annual forage in your harvested wheat fields. However, the plants may not come up right away if we do not get some moisture in the ground. If you do not want to plant an annual forage in the harvested wheat field, you might consider utilizing the wheat straw in your animal's feed ration.
Another option would be to harvest the corn stover in the fall and utilize it in the feed ration. It is more economical to graze corn stover in the field rather 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 the drought conditions continue, it is important that you do not overgraze your pastures. Damage from overgrazing will last several years. Animals should not graze on the pasture once the growth is less than four inches. To prevent overgrazing, you should practice rotational grazing. If you are unable to use rotational grazing, then you might consider fencing a portion of a pasture and use it for feeding hay and sacrifice that portion of the pasture to avoid damaging the entire pasture.
When feeding hay this early in the year, you should practice a limit feeding strategy. 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 indicates that allowing cows only 4-8 hours per day of access to moderate quality, large round bales can reduce hay needs by 17 to 37 percent without hurting performance.
Additional options you might consider are to creep feed offspring, weaning at an earlier growth stage, planting millet, or culling livestock. When weaning early, do not wean calves that are less than 70 days of age. The usage of pearl or foxtail millet as a feed source in the fall is one option many may not take advantage of.
As the weeks go by and the drought continues, I encourage individuals to make a list of potential animals to cull. Have the list ready and when you do a pregnancy check, go ahead and cull a few animals to lighten your feed requirement for this winter. At this time, I would not encourage culling tons of animals because it will take several years for you to return to the number of animals you initially had. You should consider culling animals that lost their offspring multiple years in a row, are not bred, are older, unsound or poor performing animals.
If you do think you are going to need to purchase forages to get through the winter, then I encourage you to start buying the forages now before the prices rise. You can locate forage that is for sale by going to www.foragefinder.org. If you have any excess forage, you might use the same website as a source to sell your forage.
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 Co. or 829-5020 in Owen Co. or reach me directly at email@example.com. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.
Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* June 28 -- Morgan County Pond Field Day, Morgantown, 6-9 p.m., Call 765-342-1010 for more information,
* June 28 -- Sheep and Goat Parasite/FAMACHA Workshop, Dubois, 4-7, $25, More Information and a registration form are available at www.ansc.purdue.edu/SH,
* June 29 --Beginning Meat Goat Workshop, Dubois, 9-4:30, $50, More information and a registration form are available at www.ansc.purdue.edu/SH,
* July 4 -- Holiday, Extension Office is closed,
* July 9 -- The Nitty Gritty Work of Plan Commissions, Indianapolis, 9-3:30, $85, Contact 317-261-3046 by June 29 to register, and
* July 10 -- Getting Good Planning in Your Community, Indianapolis, 9-3:30, $85, Contact 317-261-3046 by June 29 to register.