The worst drought on record in Ohio has forced many livestock producers to choose between culling their herds or forking over significantly more money to feed their cattle. But a pair of Ohio State University Extension experts said that producers might want to consider “outside-the-box” management ideas to try to minimize the economic losses.
The extreme heat and dryness have left many producers short on hay and silage supplies, and thus, at a loss for how to best manage their feed rations, said John Grimes, beef coordinator for OSU Extension. But producers who are open to nontraditional ideas might be able to save money and save their herds.
“This year has posed some significant challenges that increase the need to think of solutions that are more outside of the box than what farmers may do in a typical year,” Grimes said. “I think the key for any operation is to get as much production as we can off of an acre. Just typical management that we’ve done over the year with hay production may not be enough. We may need to look at some different options.”
As a result, many farmers are now using silage as a large part of their plans for surviving the drought, said Stan Smith, an OSU Extension program assistant in agriculture and natural resources.
“Obviously this year the hay production has been down due to the drought and we’ve found the quality of the hay, quite frankly, isn’t good as we’ve tested some of it,” he said. “So as we get into fall, we’re finding a lot of corn in fields that aren’t going to yield a lot of grain, and they can be made into corn silage.”
Smith said the drought has left farmers a “great opportunity” to gather up a lot of high-quality feed on not a whole lot of acres.
“While the concept of feeding brood cows feed made up of corn silage is not something that cattlemen may typically do, this year our hay crops and pastures have been devastated by drought, which has left many people scrambling thinking they have to find hay to feed their cows,” he said. “But you can feed cows a minimal amount of hay and supplement it with the appropriate amount of corn silage.”
Not only is that a viable option for livestock producers, but it also can be a smart option for corn growers who are looking at yields in the 50-bushel range, Smith said.
“For growers who typically sell their corn, (such low yields) mean they won’t have much income this year,” he said. “Yields are worse even than what we anticipated.