BEEF Daily

Ranchers Plan On Early Weaning


This week’s poll asks, “Do you plan to wean your calves early?

With the drought drying up summer grasses, scorching the corn crop and limiting feed resources for cattlemen, many are already culling their cow-calf pairs instead of paying for high-priced hay. For those who stick it out, many will be forced to feed winter feed stores this summer and move cattle to pastures that wouldn’t normally be utilized until the fall.

According to a July 17 report by the U.S. Drought Monitor, “Another week of hot and dry weather continued the deterioration of crop conditions in America’s breadbasket. USDA reports for the week ending July 15 indicated that 38% of the nation’s corn crop was in poor to very poor condition, compared to 30% a week ago, and 30% of soybeans were in poor to very poor condition (compared to 27% last week). Fifty-four percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, which is a jump of 4% compared to last week and is an all-time high for the 1995-2012 growing season weekly history.”

In a report from the CME Group last week, Len Steiner and Steve Meyer pointed out that the percentage of all beef cows in the U.S. that are located in states with range and pasture rankings in the poor and very poor category was 71%. And that percentage had more than doubled in just the previous three weeks. Only 10% of beef cows were in states that now have good or excellent pasture ratings, they pointed out.

As the drought continues to plague the nation, this week’s poll wants to know your plans for your 2012 calf crop.

On the homepage we ask, “Will you wean calves early this year?”

Vote in this week’s poll here and leave us your comments on the strategy.

How will you manage your cattle for the drought? Are you purchasing more hay this year? Are you planning to sell your calves early? Are you able to creep-feed your calves this summer, or is it proving too costly? Let us know how you’re handling the drought in the comments section below.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Ed (not verified)
on Jul 23, 2012

We are putting up all the hay we can, but hope to market bred heifers in Oct or Nov. Will only keep a small number of bred heifers back for replacements. Cull cull cull herd.

Nicky (not verified)
on Jul 23, 2012

Weston County has not been designated drought disaster yet - but our area of the county has received less than two inches of precipitation in about six months. We have already culled 1/3 of the herd (selling pairs) and plan to wean, preg and ship early and probably, for the first time ever, put our cows in a feedlot for the winter - and pray for rain in 2013!

Heber Hammon (not verified)
on Jul 23, 2012

Our hay production in Central Utah is less than 1/3 that of last year. Fires have destroyed a lot of summer pasture. We are grazing cattle on fall pastures and the cattle look good. In the next week or so, we will start culling pairs. We have sold 200 mixed calves already and will start to sell the other 300 in the next two weeks. We are looking to lease winter wheat pastures to replace our usual fall range.

Jan Armstrong (not verified)
on Jul 25, 2012

Here in southern Indiana, we're at about 1/4 normal rainfall, after a nearly snow-free winter and an average spring. Temperatures have been in the 100s multiple days since June & have only dropped below 90 once or twice. Pastures are brittle; ponds, springs, creeks are dry. We only got one cutting of hay; ordinarily get two, with the potential for three, if we wanted to. We've set tanks and are buying & hauling water for the first time ever. ( My family has been farming & raising cattle here since 1818.) We're weaning early and culling deep.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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