Summer is upon us, and now is a good time to review a few management ideas for beef cattle operations.
If limited hay supplies are a concern, consider trying to bale and ammoniate wheat straw. While it won’t turn straw into alfalfa quality feed, ammoniation will improve the digestibility of straw. When properly used in conjunction with other feedstuffs, ammoniated wheat straw can help stretch limited forage supplies.
Bale and cover the straw as soon as possible after harvest. Apply anhydrous ammonia at the rate of 60 pounds of ammonia per ton of dry straw. Use proper precautions when handling anhydrous ammonia. Analyze the ammoniated straw and other feedstuffs for nutrient content so proper supplementation programs can be developed.
Assess pastures for weed control needs. Apply appropriate control measures for the weeds present and consider re-seeding with cool-season grasses in late summer or early fall if grass stands are thin.
If pasture availability becomes limited, begin reducing animal numbers. Start with old, open and ornery cows. If forage demand still needs to be reduced, consider early weaning the calves. The cost of feeding the calves must be considered, but don’t assume calves can’t be early weaned due to high feed costs without weighing all the costs and benefits.
Heat stress is always a concern in the summer months in Missouri. Researchers at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) at Clay Center, NE have information on their web site concerning heat stress in beef cattle. Detailed information is available by clicking on various heat stress topics, including heat stress forecast maps. These maps are made using the seven day forecasts of four weather parameters (temperature, humidity, wind speed, and cloud cover) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - National Weather Service (NWS). Heat stress forecasts for up to 7 days are available. This might be useful when planning livestock work during the summer months.
If you have questions on these or other livestock issues, please contact one of the regional livestock specialists or your local MU Extension Center.
(by Gene Schmitz, MU Extension Livestock Specialist)