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Wham! Here Comes Summer, and in Some Areas - Drought!

No one likes to hear the “D” word and I don’t mean Dallas or even Divorce.  We all know it as Drought!  Many parts of the US don’t have to worry about drought now as moisture conditions this spring have been very generous.  That is fortunate for many cattle producers as much of the pasture production as well as forages for hay crops, are greatly impacted by spring moisture conditions.  Unfortunately, there is one area that has been dealing with Spring weather conditions that have been getting drier and drier.  That is the Upper Plains States.

I certainly don’t want to jump on the band wagon by spreading doom and gloom so I included the most current Drought Monitor Map shown below from the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln, along with a bit of encouraging news for the Upper Plains with their “Looking Ahead” forecast.  With any luck, their predictions will come to fruition and help provide relief.  Regardless, when ample rain is not received during the growing season at the right time, late rains can help with greening things up, but a good portion of the forage production has already been lost.

There are already numerous reports of cattle moving to sale barns at a much faster pace than normal this time of year as producers start looking to adapt to a shrinking forage base.  Providing supplemental nutrition can help hold cow body condition and maintain calf growth.  While there are many factors that need to be considered when managing your herd depending upon the severity and length of time without rain, I would like to offer a few suggestions below that are specific to managing your CRYSTALYX® supplementation program during the heat of the summer and as dry conditions impact your pastures. 

Feeding Tips for CRYSTALYX® during Summer:

  • Make sure there is plenty of available forage in pastures. Once forage becomes limiting, supplement intake will most often increase.
  • Be sure there are 20 to 30 head per barrel for proper surface area exposure. Fewer animals per container could allow for increased daily intake.
  • Place barrels further away from water or loafing areas once livestock are familiar with the supplement for managing desired supplement intake.
  • If possible, position barrels in areas that receive shade at least during part of the day.
  • Low-moisture block products like CRYSTALYX® will normally soften with high temperatures. Shade will significantly reduce this softening and night cooling will return product to original hardness.
  • Check your livestock frequently during extended periods of heat to make sure they have access to fresh water and to ensure that CRYSTALYX® supplement programs are delivering expected intakes. Repositioning barrels in the pasture may be needed to help reach desired intake.
  • Common livestock management practices that can lead to higher CRYSTALYX® supplement intake include:
    • Limited forage availability and/or a significant reduction in quality.
    • Fewer than 20 to 30 head per container where they have access to more supplement surface area.
    • Confined situations where cattle are in close proximity to supplement containers for most of the day.
    • Placement of CRYSTALYX® barrels in open, un-shaded areas near water.
    • Allowing free-choice supplement access to starved animals that were previously restricted.

Please realize that CRYSTALYX® is a great way of extending and extracting more energy from, your forages and pastures, especially low quality forages that emerge during dry conditions.  It does not replace forages.  So you need to have a forage base to work with in order to fully derive the benefits of CRYSTALYX® supplementation.  It is critical that you do not run completely out of grass.  Self-fed supplement intake will generally go up noticeably if you are flirting with restricted forage availability.  Make sure you are observing the signs and that cattle are moved, numbers are reduced or supplemental forage is provided before pasture conditions can no longer support optimal cow/calf performance.  We realize that drought strategies are moving targets that are highly dependent on timely rains.  I hope the tips provided above can help you get the most from your forages and help you manage through the warmer summer months ahead and navigate through any extremely dry conditions that you might face.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

Looking Ahead:  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center forecast calls for continued rain June 7-14 across the South and eastern portions of the United States. Average predictions range from ¼ of an inch across the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee River valleys to more than 5 inches along the coastal Carolinas and in Florida. Widespread rainfall is also expected across the Rockies and the central United States. Most locations are forecast to receive less than an inch of rain. However, if the forecast holds true, drought-stricken areas of eastern Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota could see over 2 inches of rain. Finally, a frontal system in the Northwest is expected to bring unseasonable rainfall from northern California to western Montana.

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