Mother Nature has spoken to us in many ways during the year- at the moment she is reminding us what it is like to be in a drought.
As of August 2, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that Arkansas has areas of the state categorized as levels D0, D1, D2 and D3. Missouri is at D0 through D2. Oklahoma is at D2 through D4.
What do these values mean? D0 = Abnormally dry; D1 = Drought – Moderate; D2 = Drought – Severe; D3 = Drought – Extreme; and D4 = Drought – Exceptional. Yes, “exceptional”.
Knowing this, it’s time to make sure you have access to feed and water in case the supplies you usually count on run out – if they haven’t already.
Know your backup: Feeding options
According to Shane Gadberry, University of Arkansas animal science associate professor, the consequence of a drought is usually a shortage of forage quantity, either immediate or delayed. The next issue is forage quality, which may now be lower.
“So addressing the situation becomes what do we need to overcome – if it is a deficiency such as protein, this can be overcome with a range meal, protein block, or similar high protein supplement,” Gadberry said.
David Lalman, Oklahoma State University extension beef cattle specialist, suggests that there is no cookie cutter answer for the most economical supplement options that producers will have easy access to.
Lalman offers management techniques that can possibly reduce the amount of hay needed by nearly 1/3, while reducing the amount of forage wasted. Possible strategies include limiting forage intake; using sheeted, solid bottom round bale hay feeders; and using Ionophores as a feed additive for grazing cattle and cattle consuming hay to improve weight gain.
“Because this drought is so widespread, hay is in short supply and high demand,” Gadberry said. “With high feed prices – decisions must be made.”
Know your support team: Federal and state programs
According to Gerald Sergent, Compliance Program Chief, Missouri Farm Service Agency, there are several options available to producers. One option is the Livestock Indemnity Program, which compensates producers for livestock deaths due to the extreme heat. Another resource is the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) assists producers with grazing losses.
Of the many options for producers offered by the FSA and USDA, the first step is to contact local FSA office to see what kind of assistance they may qualify for.
Know your plays: The next step
“The drought issue this year is so wide spread that resource information appears abundant,” Gadberry said. “Just about every electronic newsletter associated with the beef industry is publishing information.”