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Drought Strategies and Available Assistance to Livestock Farmers

According to Sarah Dickinson, Animal Sciences and Forages Regional Extension Agent, counties in North Eastern Alabama have been dry throughout the summer of 2016. As property owners, commodity farmers, and livestock producers hope for rain, various management strategies and assistance programs may be considered. Livestock producers should use management strategies to stretch available hay and grazing. Hay availability has been of great concern to livestock producers this summer. Because of the lack of rainfall and bouts with armyworms, hay production has decreased. Furthermore, loss of grazing has increased summer hay demand, with many producers feeding hay at least sometimes this past summer. To better stretch your resources, consider grouping animals to feed hay and supplement appropriately for their varying nutritional needs. For example, cows in peak lactation will consume 2.5-3% of their body weight and require around 60% total digestible nutrients (TDN; e.g. energy) and 12% crude protein (CP), whereas dry, pregnant cows may only need to consume 2% of their bodyweight at 48% TDN and 7% CP. Test your hay for nutrient density, group livestock according to intake requirements, and supplement hay with feeds as needed. You can limit feed hay and meet the remainder of your cows’ nutrient needs by providing supplementation through stored feeds. Contact your County Extension Office or Regional Extension Agent for help determining hay requirements and proper supplementation for your animals.

While summer perennial grazing will begin to wind down as we move toward the winter season, considerations for winter grazing may be beneficial – especially if we receive some fall rainfall. Planting winter annuals on prepared land or over-seeding onto short grazed summer sods can provide grazing in the late fall and winter season. Small grains (oats, wheat, rye), ryegrass, and clovers are excellent species to consider planting alone or as a mixture for winter grazing. If you have the ability to stockpile tall fescue into the late fall months, this is another strategy that may help provide grazing if we receive moisture soon.

Animals that are not productive should be sold to reduce the number of animals that will consume your limited resources. Pregnancy check animals at weaning or at the end of your breeding season to identify and cull open animals. Also identify and cull low performing animals and animals with bad eyes, feet, udders, and dispositions. These animals will only consume resources needed by your quality stock, and the income from their sales can increase funds available for purchasing hay or stored feeds.

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides assistance to grazing livestock producers that have lost grazing abilities due to droughty weather. Chambers County is currently listed amongst counties eligible for assistance. If you graze livestock in Chambers County and wish to apply for or learn more about financial assistance for your operation, contact your County’s FSA office at 334-745-4791. For more information on this and other Extension topics, please contact Sarah Dickinson at 256-537-0024, sed0029@auburn.edu or the Chambers County Extension Office at 334-864-9373. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome.