I received an article from the Noble Foundation that discusses the three lessons we should learn from the drought or should I say should have learned from the drought. The rains in August/September helped a little but unfortunately our problems continue and will continue mostly as a result of these three lessons.
Number one, “with no plan in place, producers hoped for the best then waited too long to react.” Waiting led to a severe depletion of forage resources and in most cases damaged the very resource that can help see us through a drought. Because there was no plan or even an early discussion of worst case scenarios this led to severe culling in August. In most cases producers would say to me, “you don’t understand, I have been building up my herd for years and I can’t sell them now.” Remember that you not only build your herd but you build your range and pastures. As we have overgrazed the bare spots are now being invaded by noxious weeds like nightshade, broomweed and ragweed and it will take years to recover these areas. No one would suggest selling all the animals but as was said by many in the drought of 2005, you should only plan for a drought by only using 70% of your potential forage resources in any one year.
Number two, “too often this year, the focus has been on figuring out how to rough them through” rather than maintaining adequate body condition (BCS 5). Producers that use palpation as a way to determine pregnancy and ultimately cow culling are seeing much lower conception rates in fact some might say disastrous! As cow condition slips cows don’t breed or they lose their calves. Only a bred cow has a chance to pay off their drought debt at some point in their lifetime. You must keep your cows in Body Condition Score “5” year round or expect to see reproduction go south.
Number 3, “emergency feeding and marketing were and continue to be nightmares in herds with year round calving.” When you are in supplementation or even full feeding situations like we are in, it is impossible to economically or efficiently feed dry cows and nursing cows together. They have completely different nutritional needs and then you add in the problem of calf ages all over the place and weaning/marketing is even more messed up. Define your breeding season and stick to it. In this area spring calving, fall weaning fits our forage base but whatever time you choose STICK to it.
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- Bob Whitney
- As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.