Farm Facts & Furrows

Manitoulin drought

Manitoulin and region has experienced dry conditions this summer. Some areas are more extreme than others. Beef producers will be looking for management tips to deal with poor pasture conditions and the impacts from feeding out hay early. Available options vary. Under pasture drought conditions females lose body condition and offspring stop gaining. Lack of rainfall has affected hay yield this year with less than average 1st cut and very little second cut. Feeding hay in August, as some are doing, depletes scarce winter feed quickly. There are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, the cows are income centres from year to year and the core herd must be maintained. Secondly, pasture needs to be managed to prevent weakening the plants. This will impact next year’s growth. Overgrazing will do this. Both concerns can be addressed by reducing the grazing pressure.

Are there hayfields with some regrowth that could be used for grazing? What about a neighbour’s field left vacant? Quality may be poor but you may get some feed off it. Try to avoid the fall rest period for fields heavy in alfalfa. Also fields with 50 percent or more alfalfa or clover are a risk for bloat. It might be wise to avoid them. Many hay fields and cash crop fields lack fencing. Use an electric wire around the outside of the pasture area to contain the cattle. It is crucial to have water available or brought to the pasture. Electric fence goes up quickly and can be temporary. There is a cost here but what is the cost to buying and handling hay? Consider leaving the fence up. It may be needed next year. Considering cutting hay rather than fencing and feed this hay to the cows. Since quality may be poor, consider sampling these forages to see how to supplement them.