The previous two blogs were kind of a set up for this one. I talked about getting cows to fit their surroundings, making the management mindset change, and implementing that into practice. That all helped going in to drought 12. Thing is, that wasn’t a drought plan.
After the drought I mentioned from 10 years ago, there were a bunch of articles in every publication you can think of about drought planning. I read a bunch of them. They all talked about different things to do to relieve the burdens of drought. One thing that was constant in them was to have a written plan of action. Well I will just make my plan up in my head.
I live a major highway that runs from Texas all the way into Iowa. One of the largest cattle feeding counties in the nation is a couple hours north of me. Last year with the drought in the south, there were bullhaulers running by here every day. Day and night, for weeks on end. I took notice of that. It was a big deal. I took an entire day, and sat in the office, and made a drought plan. I thought everything through. Things like where I was at the time. Where I hoped to be the following year (which is now), and what I may have to do, to be where I want to be incase the world does not end on Dec 21 2012.
I first made a list of all my cows. Then I broke that list down. My plan was to be sure I had enough forage that I would not have to feed my cows. The pastures I rent are from family. They have been in the family for generations. So I think I kinda have a feel/educated guess for how they will produce. I planned to watch them closely and set up trigger points for culling.
This took a bit of planning. I first though how will I make it until I can graze cornstalks. I had a list of all the cows I would keep. So I would need so much forage in my pasture for those cows. Then I had a list of cows I would cull off if things got tough, and some needed to go so I could hang on to the keeper cows. So I knew I needed so much more forage for them. If forage got deplete enough that it was looking like it may cut into what I need for the keeper cows, this bunch would have to go. Then there was the list of cows I was going to cull anyway. I decided to just go ahead and do this at weaning time, since I would have them all gathered up anyway. And you remember I early wean as a normal practice.
I had these lists along with my trigger points written down. This way there was no emotion. I just go out there and follow what I had written down. The criteria I used to make each list may be different from what you would use.
Here is where things got interesting. This spring I had a few people interested in buying my open replacement heifers and my first calf heifer pairs. I have been thinking of getting out of the cow/calf deal all together for a couple years (I like stockers better that is the only reason why) so I sold them. I’m glad I did. Some of you may remember what the price for those would have been last spring. At this point I was pretty certain I wouldn’t hit those trigger points, but I held onto that list anyway.
Now I always read in the all wise and free magazines to keep the youngest cows. They offer the best genetics and highest fertility. I disagree with keeping the young ones. I say get rid of the old cows and the young cows. The young cows are unproven. I may be keeping them as replacements out of proven cows, but the young one is still unproven. What kind of mother will she be? Will she breed back? And so on. I want to keep my mature cows that are in their prime, and are reliable.
What if it would have rained? I would be wasting grass. I have a bunch of stockers. It would be no big deal to kick a few out with the cow herd. Or I could have done something else. That would have been a problem I’d have liked to have had this year
When I weaned my calves, I did not haul that first list of cows to town. I had way more grass than I thought I might, mostly from selling those heifers. So I left those cows out there for a while. The price I would have gotten for them was really low the week I weaned. I did sell them a few weeks later though. The price for slaughter cows came back up quite a bit so that is when I sold them. Being a bit of a salebarn denizen has its advantages. Here’s something funny. When I unloaded those cows the salebarn help asked me where they came from. They noticed the cows were drying down, so they knew they did have a calf on their side earlier. But they were fat! It had been a long time since they saw fat cows. They asked what I was feeding them. Just mineral. The buyers rewarded me well for having fat cows.
This is how I set myself up for the drought. I wasn’t for certain we would e in the drought here. But looking at the weather pattern from 10 -12 years ago suggested we might be. In talking to the old timers (80 and older) they tell me that we typically will not see a year this bad back to back. That doesn’t mean next year will be great, or even good. Hopefully a little better though.
Next week I will talk about how I prepared for the drought with my stokers, and feedlot cattle. It made this summer a lot of fun.