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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Drought Management in the Northern Great Plains. Ii. Evaluation of Alternative Strategies for Cow-Calf Enterprises

Authors
item Kruse, R - MONTANA STATE UNIV
item Tess, M - MONTANA STATE UNIV
item Heitschmidt, Rodney

Submitted to: Professional Animal Scientist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2007
Publication Date: June 1, 2007
Repository URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/sp2UserFiles/Place/54340000/Publications/kruse%20drought%202.pdf
Citation: Kruse, R.E., Tess, M.W., and Heitschmidt, R.K. 2007. Drought management in the Northern Great Plains. II. Evaluation of alternative strategies for cow-calf enterprises. Professional Animal Scientist 23:234-245.

Interpretive Summary: Our objective was to evaluate alternative drought management strategies for their effects on beef cow-calf enterprise profitability based on early detection of drought. A bio-economic model was parameterized to represent a range-based cow-calf production system in the Northern Great Plains. The base management system was characterized by inputs required to maintain herd size of approximately 511 cows during an average climatic year with a fixed forage base. Simulated management schemes were early (90 d, early management (EM)) and normal weaning times (200 d, normal management (NM)) with and without moderate (20% decline in forage production) or severe (40% decline in forage production) drought and with either normal or drought (reduced crude protein content, metabilizable energy, and neutral detergent fiber) forage/diet quality. NM tactics during drought were to provide nutritional supplements to cow herd as needed to maintain “normal” animal performance. A second bio-economic computer model was used to simulate drylot performance for early-weaned calves. Outputs from the two models were combined and treatments were evaluated based on feed costs, average calf weaning weight, and ranch gross margin (RGM; gross revenue – variable costs). For the EM, RGM was calculated with and without the drylot component. During drought RGM was reduced compared to the base system: EM (26 and 57%) and NM (33 and 72%) for moderate and severe drought, respectively. For all levels of drought and forage quality, EM had lower purchased feed costs and equal or higher RGM than NM. Directly feeding EM calves was generally more efficient than feeding NM cows to produce milk to maintain calf performance. During severe drought, early weaning calves did not reduce grazing pressure enough to maintain gross margins comparable to the base system.

Technical Abstract: Our objective was to evaluate alternative drought management strategies for their effects on beef cow-calf enterprise profitability based on early detection of drought. A bio-economic model was parameterized to represent a range-based cow-calf production system in the Northern Great Plains. The base management system was characterized by inputs required to maintain herd size of approximately 511 cows during an average climatic year with a fixed forage base. Treatments were factorially arranged where management (early vs. normal), intensity of drought (moderate, 20% reduction in available forage vs. severe, 40% reduction in available forage), and forage quality (average crude protein (%), metabolizable energy (kcal•kg-1), and neutral detergent fiber (%) vs. drought affected values) were evaluated for effects on system performance. Early management (EM) included detecting drought by July 15th and weaning calves at 90 d. Normal management (NM) responded to drought by providing nutritional supplements as needed to maintain animal performance. A second bio-economic computer model was used to simulate drylot performance for early-weaned calves. Treatments were evaluated based on their effects on ranch gross margins (RGM; gross revenue – variable costs). For EM, RGM was calculated with and without the drylot component. During drought RGM was reduced compared to the base system: EM (26 and 57%) and NM (33 and 72%) for moderate and severe drought, respectively. For all levels of drought and forage quality, EM had equal or higher RGM than NM. Directly feeding EM calves was generally more efficient than feeding NM cows to produce milk to maintain calf performance.

Last Modified: 12/27/2014
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