As we all know Central Virginia has not received appreciable rainfall now in nearly 8 weeks in some counties. This is a scary fact and it is going to affect us all. Here are a few thoughts to consider regarding maintaining your livestock in drought conditions.
Keep hay out- in many places there is absolutely NO grass left at all…I know it’s early to be feeding hay, but it’s necessary, otherwise the cattle especially will start eating plants and weeds that can be toxic to them. Most of the brood cows are heavily pregnant right now and their energy/protein requirements are high. Plants like perilla mint and cockleburs can tolerate dry conditions and high heat - normally cattle won’t eat these plants, but if that is what’s available, they will eat them.
Check water sources every day- with the drought, high heat, and heavy pregnancy water is the animal’s single most important resource. Livestock can be starved for calories for over a week but can only go 2-3 days without water before they begin to get “salt toxicosis”.
Consider giving Multi-Min (to cattle) or BoSe (to small ruminants)- because of the lack of rainfall the forage quality is quite poor. You may see an advantage in conception rates on re-breeding and an improvement in their overall health and immune function by supplementing these products. Both are prescription products and can be picked up at our office.
Secure your hay source for the winter- with no rain available for people who have long grazing periods and who normally stock pile fescue there will likely be a major shortage of hay this winter. This could cause the price of hay to become quite high.
Consider culling older, thinner animals before the winter- this does two things:
1) Lessens your hay burden and
2) It’s a more humane option for an animal in poor condition going into a very cold season
Have fecal sample checked on your herd/flock before winter- the last thing these animals need is one more thing providing stress on their bodies. And many have been grazing fields to the ground for 2 months.
Hang in there my friends! You all do a great job to provide for the needs of your animals and I know it’s scary when the rainfall is out of your control.
So, my advice is say and little prayer, keep the faith, and do the things you can do to help your animals be able to “weather the storm” (or lack thereof). Please let us know if there’s anything we here at LVS can do for you.