Drought situations place significant pressure on the feed and water resources available for livestock. Producers need to plan for the most effectively management and conservation of their resources. Early planning and decisions regarding the management of the livestock are most critical. Every operation may have different options based on stocking rates, production status of the animals, total available feed resources and the financial position and cash flow situation of the operation.
The following are some general management tips and guidelines that producers will find useful in their planning and decision making processes regarding the ewe flock.
1. Reduce number of animals and/or nutrient demands of the flock.
2. Fall breeding ewes.
If these drought conditions continue, you will need to flush these ewes for up to 16 days before the start of your breeding season (September-October). You can do this effectively with ¾ to 1 lb of whole shelled corn. You need to increase body condition score to 3.0 at breeding. Now is a good time to feed a free choice mineral mix.
3. Ewes due to lamb in OctoberDecember.
These ewes will do well on average quality hay before the last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. Save the better quality hay supply to feed during these last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy and during the early lactation period. Again, it is important to monitor the body condition of these ewes and to maintain your deworming and vaccination programs.
During the last 4 weeks of gestation, you should begin to feed these ewes ½ to ¾ lb of concentrate (12 to 14 % protein) with 3-5 lbs of your better quality hay/head/day. If you do not feed a total mixed concentrate, you should be sure to offer a free choice mineral mix at this time. Be sure that you deworm the ewes prior to lambing. Following lambing, increase the amount of concentrate up to 1 lb for singles and 1 ½ lbs for twins. This means you need to separate the ewes at lambing for best management of feed resources. If feed resources continue to be limited, early-wean these lambs. The ewe produces 75% of her milk in the first 8 weeks of lactation. After that period, the ewe provides more companionship for the lamb than nutrition. You should consider creep feeding as a necessary component for the transition to total weaning. This helps ensure good rumen development and function of the lamb. Again, do not forget to give the lambs a booster vaccination for overeating disease at least 2-weeks prior to weaning.
4. Keep accurate records of feed and livestock inventories.
If federal or state disaster assistance becomes available in response to the drought, these records will be important when applying for assistance.