With a long, snow covered winter and a rainy spring, many producers can be optimistic when thinking about forage quality and availability this grazing season. Reviewing the drought monitor, things are improving, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The effects of long-term drought are not limited to forage and water quality.
There are lots of clichés out there that deal with yesterday, today and tomorrow. We have 20-20 hindsight for yesterday, and usually a good idea of what is going on today. Most anyone could retire young, if you could predict tomorrow. While tomorrow or next week is very hard to predict, some trends you can recognize from years past, can give you a decent estimate of the years ahead. That may be the gist of the quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In the feed business, a common quote that we all fear from a customer is “That is the way my Dad always did it.” There is much of great value to be learned from our forefathers, but, the latest Technology in Agriculture is probably not one of them.
There’s been a lot of renewed interest in the practicality and feasibility of managing beef brood cows in dry lot systems. There’s some University trial work, economic analysis, nutritional strategies, etc..., being discussed on how these systems may or may not fit. Recent effects of drought, commodity prices, and cash rent for pasture ground, and shrinking availability of pasture in the Corn Belt has been the main reason for this renewed interest. I say renewed because I do believe this practice really isn’t new and it’s not really a concept. It’s one way to cope with drought, and was likely more common place historically when every farm had 20 beef cows, a few sows, chickens, and a dozen milk cows. I can still find a spot or two in my travels where beef cows are managed in dry lot year round and the subsequent calving season is year round as well.
Tall fescue has long been associated with a syndrome known as Summer Slump. An endophyte fungus within the fescue plant produces alkaloids that cause adverse symptoms including: decreased weight gain, weight loss, decreased feed intake, reduced milk production, higher body temperature, increased respiration rates, rough hair coat, unthrifty appearance (See Figure 1), loss of blood flow to extremities, excessive salivation and poor reproductive performance. Symptoms seem to be worst during hot summer months. Luckily, there are several management options available to cattle producers to help lessen the symptoms of Summer Slump.