BEEF CATTLE PRODUCERS DISCUSS WINTER FEEDING ALTERNATIVES
TROY, Ala., Aug. 28 -- The hot, dry summer has created a hay shortage in Alabama and is forcing state cattle producers to look at alternative feeds as a way to sustain their herds through the approaching winter.
|Alabama Farmers Federation Beef, Dairy and Hay and Forage Director Perry Mobley, left, discusses winter feeding alternatives with Pike County farmers, from left, Wayne Davis, Bill Hixon and Bill Sanders.|
More than 100 cattlemen from the Wiregrass attended a meeting in Troy Aug. 28 where Dr. Darrell Rankins, Extension specialist and associate professor of animal science and forages at Auburn University, discussed options that could allow them to hold on to their brood cows.
"Cows have to have some forage," he said. "Typically, they need one-half of 1 percent of their body weight or about six to seven pounds of forage a day at a bare minimum. For Alabama cattlemen, that forage is in the form of hay that was harvested over the summer. Typically, most farmers will cut their hayfield three or four times in a year. This year, some farmers have only gotten one cutting or none at all. And for farmers who have made hay, many are battling armyworms, which can completely annihilate a field in a few hours. I know one farmer whose hayfield was cleaned out in 24 hours," Rankins added.
Dry weather also has affected summer crops that can be a good source of alternative feeds. But crops like peanuts, soybeans and cotton are suffering, and Rankins said it's hard to know how much of those will be available.
Winter grazing, long touted as a cheaper source of winter feed than hay, still holds a lot of promise for Alabama producers, Rankins said.
"If farmers really knew what it was costing them to put up hay, even in a normal year, it would scare them to death," he said. "Hay is an expensive winter feed source when you consider labor, machinery, fertilizer and storage costs. Winter grazing is an excellent option, especially if it is planted on a prepared seed bed and grazing time is controlled. If you turn cows in on winter grazing and leave them there, they'll eat more than they need. The best way is to turn them in for a few hours each day."
Alabama Farmers Federation Beef, Dairy and Hay and Forage Director Perry Mobley also addressed cattle producers at the meeting. He said while the drought has been devastating, it could force cattlemen to cull open or less productive cows and to concentrate on the best producers in their herds. He said producers are fortunate that the market for cattle has remained strong.
"I know some of you have sold replacement heifers that you normally would have kept," he told the cattlemen. "But if any of you can hold on to them, you might be sitting on a gold mine come next spring."
Several publications on alternative feeds and winter grazing are available for producers from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System on the web at www.aces.edu or by contacting your local Extension office.