You do not have to go very far north or west to see the real effects of the drought that is gripping Texas. Locally we are dry and getting drier, and as a result our rangeland and improved pastures are showing stress. Dr. Joe Paschal, Extension Livestock Specialist offers the following tips for cattlemen to consider in this drought.
Cattle producers should consider early weaning their calves and selling them this spring. This will have several benefits including removing lactation stress on the cows, reducing their supplemental feed needs and costs, allowing cows to regain body condition (fatness) to improve rebreeding rates and take advantage of still high calf prices.
Removing and selling calves now, particularly if they are light weight, reduces net income but with calf prices at nearly all time highs (even though they have slipped a little in recent weeks, calf prices are still higher than they were last year) ranchers can afford to prepare a little for dry weather without selling their calves at a loss.
Weaning and selling calves early (3-4 months or older) can reduce the feed requirement of the cow by as much as 35 percent. That would be the same as having 35 percent fewer cows or 35 percent more land.
Prices are also high for cull cows. Older or younger cattle with lower levels of production or are too young to withstand a severe drought should be considered for culling or sale as replacements in other less dry parts of the country. Another consideration is to retain ownership of those cows and ship them to an area that has had rain.
No one has ever successfully fed cattle through a drought and usually during droughts or periods of dry weather we have not had this good a calf or cull cow market to sell early weaned and cull cows.