Grasslands in the U.S. are threatened by overgrazing, increasingly frequent and severe drought, and land use change. It is therefore vital for grassland managers to maintain resilient ecosystems while optimizing long-term economic returns.
As drought conditions deepen in South Dakota and the surrounding region, many producers are evaluating the status of their corn crop and feed supplies. In some instances the likelihood of corn making a harvestable grain crop is so low that the best option is to take an early forage harvest.
Hot weather conditions create challenges for grazing beef cattle. Animals need to meet their energy requirements while maintaining the balance between internal heat production and the environmental heat load. There are several physiological means for the body to dissipate heat, however those that involve body mechanisms result in increased energy maintenance requirements.
After surviving a busy calving season, producers are often ready to put the feed wagon away for a few months and turn pairs out to pasture. Dry conditions in the Upper Midwest however, may have producers pulling feed wagons out of the shed earlier than normal this year due to decreased forage production across much of North Dakota and South Dakota.
With the expanding and worsening drought conditions across South Dakota, there has been increased concern about livestock water quality. One portion of the water quality concern stems from the algae blooms on stock dams.
Summer marks the height of hay season. Unfortunately, conditions are far from ideal in much of the Dakotas this year. Hay will be short and producers will be forced to use some feedstuffs that may be unconventional or less than ideal.
Horn flies, face flies, and stable flies are not just irritants to livestock, but are also economically important to producers due to negative impacts on milk production and calf weaning weights. In addition, they can affect grazing distribution and transmit eye diseases such as pinkeye and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR).
Dry conditions and pasture shortages force livestock producers to either sell animals or look for alternative feeds. Oilseed crops may be harvested for forage when dry conditions have shrunk their yields below the economic threshold for seed harvest or when facing forage shortages.
With dry conditions spreading quickly across the Dakota’s, producers are forced to make challenging decisions on how many cow/calf pairs to turn out to pasture, and then determine how long the pastures will even last if moisture doesn’t come soon. During the spring/summer months, supplementing grass with energy and protein can decrease forage dry matter consumption.
Feeding cattle in a drylot rather than range or pasture may be a viable alternative for ranches dealing with drought conditions this year. Drylotting allows ranchers to hold on to productive cows until it rains again and pasture conditions improve.