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  • Evaluate drought-stressed pastures in the spring
  • Supplementing feeds this winter
  • Recovery and renewal
  • Drought – a Game Changer for Beef Operations
  • Announcements and Updates

Evaluate drought-stressed pastures in the spring
By Stephen Barnhart, ISU Extension forage agronomist
The Midwest U.S. has seen some of the most extreme drought conditions of recent memory and many pastures are still be in poor condition. Pastures are, for all practical purposes, dormant for the remainder of this season, so evaluating them next spring will be particularly important.

All pasture evaluation methods are subjective and their usefulness depends on the judgment of the evaluator. The manager of the pasture has the best sense of the condition of a particular pasture compared to normal, what has changed due to extended drought and what issues can be addressed immediately.

For the best view of plant recovery and vigor, you should wait until there are 2 to 3 inches of spring regrowth. Then walk through your pastures and consider:
  • Have there been any changes in plant species since last season?
  • Is the pasture density less than last season?
  • Is there evidence that weeds will be more of a problem?
  • Is there active erosion or localized damage due to supplemental hay feeding?
Pastures with little or no drought damage should have overwintered well and have a stand density of 80 percent sod cover or greater. These pastures should recover quickly with good growing condition. Even with apparent ‘normal regrowth’, plants have had some drought and use stress, and may require a deferred grazing for a couple weeks longer than usual for complete recovery.

Pastures with greater drought damage may have some stand loss, with less than 80 percent sod cover. These pastures will benefit from deferred spring grazing and early spring fertilization, While there may be a potential for stand thickening by volunteer plants, frostseeding or interseeding more forage plants will be quicker and more controlled. Even with deferred grazing, fertilization, overseeding and weed management, these pastures may require good growing conditions and two to three months of careful grazing management for complete recovery.

Severely damaged stands (stands with less than 40 percent sod cover) are going to require good growing conditions, weed management, an aggressive overseeding effort (or even complete renovation) and patience for adequate recovery opportunities.

Supplementing feeds this winter
By Chris Clark, ISU Extension and Outreach beef program specialist
As winter approaches following the drought of 2012 many beef producers will be forced to feed low quality forages such as corn stalks, CRP hay, and drought-damaged corn silage. There will be significant variability in the nutritional composition and quality of these feeds. Forage testing will be extremely important this year in order to know the nutritional value and to make appropriate supplementation decisions.

Low quality forages can be used extensively to stretch higher quality feeds, provide roughage, and provide a portion the nutritional requirements; but alone they are unlikely to meet the nutritional requirements for productive livestock over the winter. Rations with large amounts of these forages may require energy supplementation and will almost certainly require protein supplementation.

In recent years many beef producers have incorporated corn co-products and distiller’s grains into rations creating diets that are rich in protein. In many cases we have focused on balancing the ration to meet energy requirements and have actually over-fed protein. Due to high feed prices, short feed supplies, and the use of low quality forages this winter it will be important to balance the ration to meet protein requirements.

At current prices it does not make financial sense to over-feed protein. As protein prices rise it becomes increasingly valuable to forage test and balance the ration to meet but not exceed protein requirements. On the other hand, it makes no sense to under-feed protein. Animals will need adequate protein to maintain body condition, maintain body temperature, and be productive.

Numerous protein sources are available including corn co-products, soybean meal, alfalfa hay, etc. At current prices corn co-products are competitive and may be the best value when considering cost per unit of crude protein. Some producers may consider using urea as a non-protein nitrogen source to supplement protein requirements. Although pure urea is a relatively inexpensive there are a few things to consider before incorporating it into a ration. Non-protein nitrogen sources like urea must be fed with high energy diets. Without adequate energy in the diet urea will not be fully utilized and can actually cause toxicity issues. Rations high in low quality forages are unlikely to provide enough energy for animals to fully and safely utilize urea. Producers also must consider their feeding techniques, equipment, storage facilities, etc. to determine if urea is even a practical option. Additionally, when buying urea in commercial supplements the price increases making it less cost effective as a protein supplement. Another consideration is that commercial supplements may contain vitamins, minerals, ionophores, and other ingredients that cannot safely be over-fed.

As the temperature drops and the snow starts to fly producers will need to make wise feeding decisions in order to balance their rations and their checkbooks. The best approach is to forage test and work with nutritionists, veterinarians, regional beef specialists, etc. to come up with safe and nutritious rations that make sense. With adequate planning and supplementation low quality forages can be used effectively and will be important components of rations this winter.

Recovery and renewal
By Dan Loy, IBC director

This year's harvest has been running at record pace and about a month ahead of normal. By now it is essentially complete.

This breakneck pace is partly because of dry conditions in September and October, the warm dry spring and early planting, and unfortunately because there was just less crop to bring in.

By now we have a good idea what feed resources are available for the next crop year, for our individual operations and across Iowa and the U.S.

The next step for cattle producers is allocating those feed resources and making efficient use of them over the coming months. Recovery from the effects of the drought of 2012 will take place on several fronts.

To help cattle producers with feed resource management and planning, the Iowa Beef Center is presenting a series of meetings (Drought-“A Game Changer for Beef Operations” Strategies to Move Forward) across Iowa beginning this month.

Among the topics at these meetings are dealing with feeding feeds that may be unfamiliar or rations that are out of the ordinary for many. Some examples: drought corn silage, CRP hay and wintering programs that utilize high levels of corn stalks. Feed testing (including for nitrates), body condition scoring and ration balancing take on increased importance this year. Please check our website (www.iowabeefcenter.org) regularly for updates on dates and locations for these meetings.

Pastures are another resource that will be in need of recovery in the coming months. Of course the return of abundant moisture will do more for pasture recovery than any other factor. Many pastures were stretched beyond their limits this year. Looking ahead, this may, in fact, provide an opportunity to do some renovation this coming spring.

If you are considering pasture renovation options contact your Regional Iowa State Extension Agronomist or Beef Specialist for ideas.

Read the rest of this column on the IBC website.
Drought – a Game Changer for Beef Operations
By Russ Euken, ISU Extension and Outreach beef program specialist

As cow-calf and feedlot operators continue to deal with drought related issues, ISU Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Beef Center will continue to offer educational opportunities to address ongoing and emerging issues.

The “Drought – a Game Changer for Beef Operations” meetings are being held through Dec. 6 at locations across Iowa. The meetings will look at strategies for those in the beef industry to consider as they move forward.

These fall meetings are focusing on managing feed costs and alternative feeds for fall and winter feeding for the cow herd or feedlot use with the goal of helping producers develop feeding programs using available feeds while keeping feed costs in check.

Meeting topics, determined by the needs of producers dealing with drought issues, include:
  • With corn costs relatively high, producers are searching for ways to reduce corn use but still maintain performance.
  • Chemically treating lower quality forages and supplementing the forage or drought stressed corn silage will be a part of the discussion.
  • A situation update on beef outlook, current beef supply and demand, and feed price outlook will be provided via a recorded presentation.
  • A short update on precipitation outlook will be provided via a recorded presentation.
The meetings also will give an introduction to planning for next year and beyond for beef producers and highlight factors producers should be considering.

To find a November or December meeting location, contact any county extension office, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, or go to www.iowabeefcenter.org to find a listing of all dates and locations. Meetings generally last about two and a half hours.

There 's a $10 per person fee payable at the door to cover refreshments and other miscellaneous costs, which could vary at individual sites.
Announcements and update
Drought -- A Game Changer for Beef Operations: Strategies to Move Forward. Find the location nearest you.

Iowa Cattlemen's Association will celebrate 40 years
at the 2012 Convention and Annual Meeting. Set for Dec. 10-12 at the Prairie Meadows Events Center in Altoona, this year's event focuses on the accomplishments of the organization with nationally known speakers, timely information and enjoyment opportunities all for a great fee.

As a nod of appreciation for the support of members through the years, early registration, ending at 5 p.m. on Nov. 30, is just
$75 per person.  (Walk-in price is $125 each.) This covers all convention events and meals for the three days. An option for meeting events only (no meals) is just $25. See more info and a link to the registration form on the ICA website.

The 2013 Driftless Region Beef Conference will focus on efficient and economic beef and forage production in the four-state driftless region of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This region includes beautiful rolling hills, clean streams, and karst soil topography. Soil conservation and water protection are best accomplished with much of the land seeded to forage production. Thia requires cattle to consume these forages.

The conference will be held Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2013, at the Grand River Convention Center in Dubuque. See the website for program, facilities, sponsorship opportunities and registration information.

ISU's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory offers aflatoxin-only testing. Download the form to submit with your samples and $30.30 fee.

The Iowa Beef Center drought resources web page is updated as resources are available.

Greenhorn Grazing Series continues
The 2012 Greenhorn Grazing series offered in the Greenfield area ends this week with the Nov. 15 session at the Adair County Extension office, 154 Public Square, Suite C, in Greenfield. Fee is $20 per person including lunch. See registration information.