Many long-term herd health implications associated with drought extend far past the challenging grazing season.
The Beef Cattle Research Council recently hosted a webinar to help producers tackle the challenges of drought.
Dr. John Campbell from the University of Saskatchewan told producers that when cattle consume bleached and dried-out forage stands or when their diet is switched to an alternate feed source, several deficiencies and conditions can occur.
"Things that we may have to deal with as a result of drought that might not show up right away. Obviously, there's lots of things that we deal with, with drought and many of you are familiar with that, especially in the last few years. But I want to talk about vitamin A vitamin D deficiency, nitrate toxicity, and copper deficiency.Some of the winter feed issues that we might see when we're feeding unusual feeds. And then finally, just body condition and reproductive effects."
As a producer its important to be on the lookout for deficiencies in feed products.
He notes how a lack of essential vitamins and minerals can affect the performance of a cow-calf herd, such as increased open rates in the fall.
"I think the biggest thing that I've seen in a number of investigations I've done is impaired reproductive performance. We see really, really low pregnancy rates in some of these herds. And when we go and look for reasons why, lots of times we'll find very, very, very low copper levels and some of those cows."
Rancher and biologist Jesse Williams is no stranger to dry conditions after many years of ranching in southeastern Alberta.
During the webinar, she shared insights for remaining sustainable and profitable in the face of prolonged drought.
"Cull the cows that are costing you because it's going to create a more profitable herd for you to build from in the future. Now that you've culled cows, look at your feeding strategies and feed test everything. BCRC has acquired cow bytes ration balancing software and I cannot recommend it enough. We've used it for quite a few years. It's gonna help you identify weak points in your feed like if you have too much MDF. Look at your trace minerals, look at your vitamins, nitrate accumulations, mycotoxins, all those things. This is going to be incredibly important when you are using those alternative feeds and getting creative. What you feed your herd today will have an impact on your herds performance and your bottom line for years to come."
The full webinar recording is available free of charge, along with many other drought-related resources at BeefResearch.ca.