Drought Strategies: Herd Inventory Decisions
Dr. Scott P. Greiner, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Virginia Tech
Producers in many regions in Virginia are evaluating strategies to cope with drought. Successfully getting through the drought challenge will best be accomplished by applying a combination of strategies such as alternative forage and pasture management practices, feeding alternative feeds, strategic cattle management practices (such as early weaning), and herd inventory reduction. Each of these strategies must be evaluated on a case by case basis, and their implementation will vary for each producer based on their feed inventory and future needs, as well as impact of drought both short and long-term on their operation.
The prospects of having to reduce cattle numbers is a harsh reality that must be considered, although a strategy that none of us like to face. Considerations involving herd reduction need to be evaluated in concert with their impact on both viability and profitability, and the severity of herd reduction will depend largely on the extent of feed and forage shortage, and cost of purchased or supplemental feed. Long-term, the immediate benefit of herd reduction vs. cost of feed/forage to maintain inventory needs to be evaluated against the cost of rebuilding the herd at a future date along with the reality that total herd income will be reduced in future years as a result of reduced cow numbers.