Brooks County Ag Connection

Feeding Cattle During Drought

Please see the article below regarding feeding during a drought by UGA Extension Animal Scientist Dr. Lawton Stewart.

Most of Georgia, and especially parts of North Georgia, have suffered through some level of drought this summer.  The extended drought in many parts of the state have a double whammy effect on producers because not only do they not have pastures to graze this summer, but they also will not be able to harvest enough hay to get through the winter.  Hopefully, by the time you read this, you’ve received plenty of rain and drought isn’t an issue, but for many, this will not be the case. Drought has not been a stranger over the past few years, in fact, I wrote a similar article four years ago.  However, with the ebbs and flows of the cattle industry, there are still some management plans to consider to minimize the effects of drought on the farm’s finances.  It is important to maintain the nutrient requirements of the herd through a drought so that animal performance is not compromised in the current and up coming seasons.

What if hay is not available?  The key is to develop a ration that meets the nutrient requirements of the cows.

  • The stage of production of your herd is critical to knowing exactly what to feed.  Table 1 lists some example rations to use for different stages of production.
  • Consider early weaning to reduce the nutrient requirements of the brood cows.
  • Utilize a roughage source such as wheat straw, conttonseed hulls, crop residue, grazing drought stressed crops, gin trash.
  • Examples of energy and/or byproduct feed include: grains such as corn, oats, etc., soybean hulls, citrus pulp, wheat midds, hominy.
  • Examples of protein feed include: soybean meal, cottonseed meal, corn gluten feed, dried distillers grains, whole cottonseed.

Table 1. Hay replacement rations

Ingredient Dry Cow Early Lactation Late Lactation or Late Gestation
  ——————————— % of ration ———————————
Fair Hay (485 TDN, 7% CP) 60 30 45
Energy and/or byproduct feed 40 45 45
Protein Source 25 10

Is buying hay the economic choice?

  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask for a forage analysis and/or test the hay before purchasing it.  If not, you may be paying a premium for something that will not meet the requirements of your cows.
  • Take into consideration the cost of the supplement AND hay.
  • Also, take into consideration the method of feeding hay.  If hay is not fed in a ring or other way to minimize lost, hay losses can be as high as 30%, or more.
  • Table 2 compares the cost of buying hay versus feeding a hay replacement diet
  • Note that if hay is being wasted, it is more economical to buy a replacement ration.  This is point is not necessarily to steer you towards the feed, more so, to show the value of proper handling of purchased hay

Table 2. Hay replacement ration and comparison to feeding hay.

  $/ton Hay, % of intake Hay Replacement Ration, % of intake
Ingredient      
Fair Hay (48% TDN, 7% CP) $100 100%  
Gin Trash $65   60%
Soybean Hulls $180   20%
Corn Gluten Feed $185   20%
Daily Intake, lbs   25 lb 25 lb
Cost/cow      
0% hay wasted   $1.25/hd $1.39
10%   $1.39/hd  
20%   $1.56/hd  
30%   $1.79/hd