The next step in the systematic approach is to locate forages and high fiber by-product feeds, she said. Again, work with the nutritionist to determine ways to stretch forages with products such as beet pulp, soy hulls, corn cobs or other fibrous products that are not typically used.
“Analyze these feeds as well so you can get the most out of them,” Jordan said. “Test, don’t guess.”
Next is the hardest part: compare how much forage is needed to what can be located and then decide if animals need to be sold or relocated to make the two figures meet, she said.
“It may be better to send heifers somewhere else to feed rather than bring more feed to them,” Jordan said. “Or you may decide to sell heifers and concentrate on the cows. But evaluate the cows in your milking herd. Now is the time to cull those cows that aren’t producing enough to cover their feed costs.”
She said producers can consider the forage shortage as an “opportunity” to cull cows with reduced fertility, poor feet and legs, or high somatic cell counts.
“If you have bulls, ask if this is the time to switch to artificial insemination instead and ship the bull,” Jordan said.
The final step of the systematic approach is to conserve the forages that are gathered, she said. Reduce shrink by storing hay in barns if possible. Locate hay stored outside in a well-drained location or on a gravel pad to reduce losses. Consider tarping the hay to further reduce rain damage.
“If you’ve been feeding free choice in bale rings, move to a total mixed ration to reduce waste,” she said.
“Mother Nature has provided yet another challenge,” Jordan said. “Make systematic decisions, rather than buying on impulse. If fall rains permit, consider planting winter forage crops such as small grains to help meet the forage needs of your herd.”
For more dairy information, visit http://texasdairymatters.org. For other drought-related resources visit the AgriLife Extension website at: http://texashelp.tamu.edu/004-natural/droughts.php.