• Provide supplemental forage. Dry matter intake declines when forage height becomes less than 3 in. The result is reduced weight gain, lowered milk production and loss of body condition. Providing hay or silage, if available, is likely the first course of action. Where possible, limit the grazable area while feeding supplemental forage to allow other pasture areas to rebound more quickly.



  • Creep feed nursing calves. When forage growth is limited, it's likely neither energy nor protein needs are being met for optimal calf growth by pasture and milk. Consider creep feeding nursing calves to prevent losses in calf gains and in weaning weight, while reducing the stress on the cow and pasture.



  • A recommended creep mix is 85% cracked corn and 15% of a 40%-protein supplement or soybean meal. Oats can be substituted for part of the corn, especially the first few days when starting calves on creep.

    If the mix contains more than 1/3 oats, reduce the level of protein supplement or soybean meal to 10-12% of the mix. Other potential ingredients are pelleted soybean hulls or dry corn gluten feed (DCGF). Recommended inclusion rates are 1/4 to 1/3 of the mix. Since DCGF contains about 20% crude protein, little or no additional protein may be needed.

  • Early wean calves. In severe feed shortage, consider early weaning, especially for cows in a weight and body condition loss situation. Early weaning lowers cows' nutrient needs by up to 50%, allowing her to maintain or gain body weight and condition on less, as well as lower-quality, feed.



  • Early-weaned calves will require a high-quality grain mix and forage to maintain adequate growth. The grain mix mentioned above can be used for early weaning. Limit consumption to 1.5% of calf weight and free-choice feed a high-quality grass-legume hay.

  • Rotational grazing allows more efficient use of pasture forages. If the paddock number is three or more, and moisture isn't limiting in the spring, 1/3 to 1/4 of the land area can be made as hay in the spring for winter or emergency-use situations. Rotational grazing permits an earlier start in the season and extends grazing in the fall.



  • Graze hay fields. If dry weather limits re-growth on hay fields, consider using them as pasture if the fields are, or can be, easily fenced, and water provided. Use bloat-prevention if the forages (alfalfa, red clover, white clover, etc.) can cause bloat.

  • Separate young cows and those with lower body condition. These cows need higher quality pasture or other forage and additional concentrate feed to regain condition.



  • Likely to be done only after early weaning has occurred, drylotting the cow herd allows pastures to rest and re-grow. If calves have been weaned, feed for dry cows can be limited only to what's needed for maintenance.



  • It's possible, with some adaptation, to feed as little forage as 1/2 to 1% of the cow's body weight (6 lbs. of dry forage for a 1,200-lb. cow), with a grain supplement providing the rest of the cow's nutrient requirements. Don't attempt all-concentrate feeding for brood cows.

    If cattle are fed hay in a drylot, let the pasture re-grow to a height of 8-10 in. before grazing is allowed. If re-growth is quick to happen because of a return to abundant moisture, consider fencing off about 25% of the pasture and stockpile the growth for grazing in November and December.

  • If culling is necessary, reduce cattle numbers in this order: open cows, yearling steers and/or non-replacement heifers, and lower-quality or older cows. Heavy culling into quality animals in the main breeding herd should only be done in critical circumstances.

For more ideas, go to www.beefcowcalf.com and click on "drought management" on the opening page menu.