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Rebuilding Cattle Herd Structure After Drought

how to rebuild cowherd
Herd rebuilding may begin in the next year or two. Here’s how to be ready.

It’s really a question of when, says Ted McCollum, Texas AgriLife Extension Service beef specialist in Amarillo. Herd rebuilding will happen. When it does, the “when” will be determined by the color of the drought monitor map; the real question becomes how well will you be prepared to take advantage?

“If you want to recover so you can start to rebuild, I would suggest you inventory your pastures and prioritize management on those units that have the greatest potential for increasing production,” he says.

That means riding your pastures and prioritizing them as to their general condition. Chances are you have some pastures where there’s not a lot there. Then there are other areas where there’s grass but it may need help. As you consider how to rebuild your cowherd, put your priority on the areas where it’s not going to take as much to recover. “And I may put that area where it’s going to take time on the backburner,” he says.

As pastures recover, your best management move is to defer grazing during the growing season on the pastures with the most potential to recover quickly. “If that’s the case, what are you going to do with the cows?” he asks.

That’s when you pull out your pasture priority list and move your cows to those areas with less potential for quick recovery. To avoid further damage, though, manage your grazing carefully.


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McCollum suggests flash grazing to use the less desirable plants that always sprout first when the rain does fall. “If we’ve got the moisture conditions and cheat grass is coming up, run your cows in there and let them eat that early cheat grass. If you’ve got some young weeds, flash graze it, and let them eat those weeds.”

But remain nimble. “If the longer-term climate predictions are close to correct, that means we’re stuck in a period where rainfall may be lower than normal. That means we need to make stocking adjustments more frequently than we did in the past,” he says.


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