When faced with a shortage of feed, you often can still maintain your livestock herd. You may have to use feeds on which you normally would not rely. You may have to cull. You will have to plan your rations so that the nutrients short in one feedstuff are either high in another or added as a supplement.
Whatever strategy you use, saving the herd can keep you in the livestock business. It may also help cushion your finances against income you lose from a poor crop.
Planning for feeding
Begin planning for maintaining a livestock herd as soon as signs forecast a dry year.
You can graze your animals on poor crop stands during the summer, or fall rye planted the previous year or on spring-planted oats.
Cut those crop-stands that will not produce good yields for fall and winter feed. Harvest them between the heading and soft dough stage.
Harvest all the hay you can from roadsides and sloughs. If your cereal crops have received enough rain, consider using them for hay or silage.
Save straw and chaff for feed. Ammonization improves digestibility and increases crude protein in roughages, allowing greater use of straw and chaff in cattle feeding. Look for alternative feeds, such as screenings from grain, canola, lentils, peas, forage seed, etc.
Feed a balanced ration to meet the animals' requirements, and make your feed supply as effective as possible. Avoid waste. Watch for health problems.
Periodic feed shortages are a fact of livestock production. Make your operation less vulnerable by planning ahead for next time.