Despite Rain Drought Intensifies, Forces Early Culling and Hay Feeding

Warmer than normal temperatures dominated the Midwest last week, and despite some thunderstorm in the High Plains, drought conditions have intensified. ( National Drought Mitigation Center; USDA; Illustration: Lori Hays )

Warmer than normal temperatures dominated the Midwest last week, and despite some thunderstorm in the High Plains, drought conditions have intensified. Cattlemen are already culling herds where they can and dipping into hay supplies.

Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director David Schemm announced last week that 43 Kansas counties are authorized for emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres beginning July 16. Emergency haying in these counties will end Aug. 15, with emergency grazing authorized through Sept. 30. This emergency use does not include CP25.

KS counties approved for hay grazing
There are 43 counties in Kansas that are available as of July 16, 2018, for emergency haying and grazing due to extreme drought pressure.See more details

Short Hay Supplies

USDA’s May Crop Production report (one of two annual reports concerning hay stocks) reported farmers on May 1,2018, had 36.8% lower hay stocks than a year ago. Twenty-five states witnessed year-over-year declines of 30% or more for May 1 all hay stocks, with only the upper Northeast, the Deep South, and four western states increasing May 1 hay stocks from the previous year.

Tracking Drought Impact

Nine of 10 of the top cow-calf states are under serious drought conditions. While the U.S. Drought Monitor offers a snapshot of drought conditions each week, conditions and impact areas can vary widely from state to state, or county to county. The impact of drought—from ground conditions, forage supplies and water shortages, can also change from one drought year to the next.

A coordination from the National Drought Mitigation Center helps track impact reports relating to the current drought. Farmers can submit crop reports, photos and more.

Click on the map above to visit the National Drought Mitigation Center map. Click on each state to see the number of impact submissions in several categories. Click on the category headings to see individual reports in that category. To submit a report, click here.  (National Drought Mitigation Center)


Drought Resources:

Depending on your current forage supply and area, producers can consider planting emergency forages, such as millets or Sorghum-sudangrasses when moisture conditions are rebound. Compare different feed ingredients and their estimated nutrition with the Feed Nutrient Calculator from South Dakota State University.

Producers should also consider if it’s more efficient to move the cows to new feeding options, or to move the feed to the cows.

Culling cows to alleviate pressure on pastures is one strategy to decrease feed costs. But carefully evaluate which genetics need to stay on your operation.

Early weaning and selling calves can cut feed demand, but also hurt annual income.

If there are low-quality forage supplies, University of Missouri researchers say ammoniating hay can improve digestibility and lowers toxins in fescue hay.