A good nutritional program will help expedite the breeding cycle of females bought as replacements for cows liquidated during a drought. Stan Bevers, Texas AgriLife Extension economist in Vernon, Texas, says producers looking for replacements often select young females, two to three years old, for longevity. But that may not be the correct decision if you want a calf next year.

“We know that those females don’t have the highest probability for reproduction in the near term,” he says. “A middle-aged female probably has a higher calving probability than either a younger female or an aged female.”

When replacement heifers are worked into a herd, Ensley says they should be fenced off from older cows. “Keep them isolated, get their health status to where it needs to be,” he says.  “You want to get them on the same health program your cows are on, but try to keep them separated from mature cows.  If not, you know who is going to beat out whom at the feed bunk.  Heifers won’t get nutrition they need.”

Develop a drought plan

Prevention of long-term effects on a cow-calf operation should include early planning, says Denise Schwab, Iowa State University Extension beef cattle specialist.  

“Develop a plan before the drought conditions get any worse,” Schwab says, adding that the plan should provide for emergency feed in the short-term, as well as winter feed in the longer term. “This requires an inventory of feed currently available and an inventory of the cowherd.

“You can often purchase hay less expensively during the growing season than in the winter. You also have the option now to incorporate silage into your winter feed supply.”

Unfortunately, recent drought years have provided unwanted on-the-job training to many. But lessons have been learned. Weaber encourages producers to seek additional information from their consulting veterinarian or nutritionist and from Extension to learn more about how to limit the impacts of drought on a herd.