The dry weather is hitting livestock people hard, and if you're one of them, you may have already started dipping into hay reserves you has set aside for winter. That's a better option that overgrazing pastures, experts say.
One cattleman told us he had more volume to the first cutting than he expected, and he also bought round bales of first cutting hay form a neighbor just in case. So he thinks he will have enough hay to survive the winter, even though he's already had to start offering bales to his herd of beef cows.
The problem is that the lack of rain has kept pastures from rejuvenating themselves, even if the producer rests them for 30 to 45 days. Normally that's enough to let the pasture refresh itself for another round of grazing. However, Keith Johnson, Purdue University forage specialist, and Ron Lemenager, Purdue Extension animal scientist, both of him combined efforts to publish an extensive amount of information to guide Extension agents working with producers on the dry weather situation recently, say that this time, pastures likely won't be ready for grazing again even with the respite.
They don't recommend allowing the stubble to be shorter than four inches before pulling livestock out of the pasture. If you go shorter you risk interfering with the plant's ability to recover as it normally does, they note. They also emphasize that if you overgraze this summer, the effects on cow performance and pasture itself won't be limited just to 2012. Instead, there could be effects for three years, including this one. The effects that show up in the cow herd may be different each year, but all of them will be negative for productivity and profit. Some relate to reproductive issues. Others involve lighter calf weaning weights.
One problem is that if overgrazing occurs, legumes may be lost in the forage mix. In many pastures, legumes help add nutritional value for livestock grazing on those pastures.