The “D” word is back, and it’s Déjà vu, all over again!

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

Adding to marketing complications resulting from COVID-19, and on the heals of one of the wettest springs in history, drought has now returned to Ohio!

After experiencing one of the wettest years ever through mid-May, over half of Ohio suddenly finds itself listed as either Abnormally Dry or in a Moderate Drought condition by the U.S. Drought Monitor. At a time when last year’s depleted inventory of quality forage has yet to be restored, the various aspects of managing feed resources will remain a primary concern for Ohio cattlemen in the coming weeks and months.

As we navigate the path of inadequate forage feed resources which it seems is becoming an annual ritual, we’ve now added challenges that result from a pandemic. COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions in April and May created a backlog of fed cattle that is likely to continue through the summer. This translates into heavier harvest weights and a lack of feedyard capacity that could easily pressure feeder calf prices well into fall.

Depending on the particular situation, there are always alternative management strategies to consider. In recent weeks this Ohio BEEF Cattle letter has explored emergency forages, pasture management during a drought, cover crops for forage, preg-checking and marketing the culls, as well as other pasture supplementation strategies. Last week Dean Kreager discussed the opportunities early weaning presents. This week Christine Gelley, Mark Sulc and Bill Weiss offer more on forage production, and in the article that follows Garth Ruff shares the opportunity to add value to calves by preweaning and preconditioning them.

In coming weeks we’ll look at the advantages of late summer fertilization and stockpiling forages. With concerns for feedlot space and the resulting pressure on calf prices, next week we’ll take a look at backgrounding calves and opportunities it offers for marketing heavier feeders later into what many believe may be a time of more feedlot capacity and better demand.

In the meantime, if lack of forage will impact the  decisions you make on marketing, purchasing or backgrounding calves, I’d invite you to visit the OSU Beef Team’s Feed & Forage Shortage page that has been assembled during the recent years of experience with challenging forage production.

If you’re looking for more ideas, recently colleague Joe Paschal, Livestock Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, shared one of TAMU’s recent publications, “Management and economic considerations for beef cow-calf producers during challenging markets or adverse weather conditions.” The challenges cattlemen in Texas are presently facing are not a lot different than those we’re facing here in Ohio. The resulting solutions are also much the same. Review that list of management considerations they have assembled linked here, and continue to explore the many alternatives and opportunities that will optimize the value of your beef cattle operation.