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Balancing Livestock and Forage to Thrive Past the Drought

Joan Sinclair Petzen, Farm Business Management
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

September 12, 2016
Balancing Livestock and Forage to Thrive Past the Drought

Take a critical look and evaluate the feeding and production strategies employed at your farm to see if they are still the best way to achieve your income goals. The first step is to determine the nutrient needs of each group of livestock and in total. Next is to estimate the amount of home grown nutrients available toward meeting that need. Most farms in the region already rely on purchasing some nutrients in the form of grain for their livestock and are likely to need to increase those purchases.

If you find you will be short of feed with your present strategy, there are a number of alternatives to consider for bringing your feed and livestock into balance.

  • Increase the proportion of grain to forage in the ration. This is most viable when grain prices are low relative to forage and you have plenty of forage in the ration already. With this alternative, it is important to be certain you are meeting the fiber requirements of the cow.
  • Purchase forage from a neighbor or outside the region. When purchasing forage, quality is a very important consideration. Know what you are getting from a quality perspective. A nutrient dense feed may come with a hefty price tag but it may be less costly per pound of nutrients than a less expensive feed harvested past its prime. Your network is important now. Keep in touch with others in the industry to learn who might have extra feed they are willing to sell either from their storage or standing in the field. With low grain prices, grain producers might be willing to sell their corn to you for forage rather than combining it.
  • Planting a winter annual grains for forage and harvesting it in the early spring can be employed to boost early spring forage yields. Adequate soil moisture for germination this fall and timely establishment will maximize yields early next spring to help bring your forage inventory back in balance with herd demands.
  • For grazers, keeping watch of your pasture and tightening up the grazing interval as you reintroduce cattle to the pastures once grass starts growing again will give more time for recovery and strengthening of the pasture plants going into the coming winter. An application of nitrogen as pastures green up again will help stimulate fall regrowth and lengthen your grazing season once moisture levels increase. If you are forced to graze tight in the fall you will need to plan for slower starting pastures in the spring. 
  • Consider boarding youngstock with someone who has adequate forage. You might need to look outside the local area to find a heifer grower who has the feed enough to accommodate your heifers.
  • Culling the herd heavily may be necessary if inventories are critically low and additional quality forage is not available. To maximize forage savings, make and execute culling decisions sooner rather than later to minimize the number of livestock you need to liquidate to stay within the confines of your forage inventory. Remember, the younger animals are, the less impact culling them will have on conserving forage. You also want to be certain you have replacements in the pipeline to bring the milking string back to full force once your forage inventories are stabilized Establish criteria for aggressive culling and monitor livestock and forage inventories frequently to be certain you have enough feed to carry your herd through to the next harvest season. Our colleagues across the state have developed a couple of resources to help with culling criteria.  
The first is an article by Ron Kuck that discusses management options for different groups of livestock:
The second is a spreadsheet that illustrates the contribution a cow makes toward fixed costs at different milk prices and production levels:|2 (called culling guide) 
Taking a pro-active approach will help you position your livestock enterprise to thrive after the drought. Managing feed inventories and livestock numbers is a delicate dance but the effort you put into it will pay dividends in added returns for your business. 











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Upcoming Events

Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1