Tag Archives: Ranching

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The American Angus Association announced Mark McCully as chief executive officer. McCully will start his role June 10. As CEO, he will lead the Association and serve as the vice chairman for each of the Association’s entities: Angus Media, Certified Angus Beef LLC, Angus Genetics Inc., and the Angus Foundation.

“This truly is a proud day for the Association and the breed,” said John Pfeiffer, Association Board of Directors president. “Mark has grown up in the cattle business and possesses unique insight into all segments of beef production, his knowledge and leadership have served CAB well, and he will help to continue to drive the demand for Angus genetics globally.”

McCully brings 23 years of experience to the table, most recently serving as vice president of production for CAB. In his role, Mark drove supply chain innovation for the brand and helped develop and implement best management practices with cattlemen to increase brand acceptance rates. In addition, Mark led global production initiatives, streamlining processes for improved product quality, and served in many industry leadership positions.

“I’m honored and truly thrilled to serve this incredible breed and its membership,” McCully said. “The Association has such a rich and successful heritage. That history, coupled with breeders always striving to produce the best Angus cattle in the world, and an incredibly bright and talented staff, I have nothing but optimism and excitement for our future.”

McCully started at CAB in 2000 as director of packing before developing and coordinating a regional sales team, and in 2005, he transitioned to supply development and production. Prior to joining CAB, he worked for Southern States Cooperative where he managed the beef improvement program and value-added feeder cattle marketing programs for cattlemen within a 22-state region. He also served as an intercollegiate livestock judging team coach, taught livestock evaluation classes and coordinated the animal science department undergraduate internship program at Michigan State University before joining Southern States.

He graduated with his Associate’s Degree from Lake Land College, Bachelor of Science degree from Western Illinois University and conducted master’s research in ruminant nutrition and feedlot management at Michigan State University, where he studied under three Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Gallery inductees — Dr. Dave Hawkins, Dr. Maynard Hogberg and Dr. Harlan Ritchie.

McCully was raised on a small family farm in central Illinois. As a youth, he was very involved in showing cattle, livestock judging, actively engaged in 4-H and FFA, and was awarded the FFA Star Farmer of Illinois in 1989. McCully currently resides in Wooster, Ohio, with his wife, Gerry. They have two children. Austin will be a junior at Case Western Reserve University majoring in computer science and economics with plans of attending law school. Maddy will be a senior in high school and in the process of making her college selection to pursue a degree in neuroscience.

For more information about the American Angus Association and the new CEO, please visit angus.org.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement on disaster and trade-related assistance:

“Whether it’s because of natural disasters or unfair retaliatory tariffs, farmers across the country are facing significant challenges and tough decisions on their farms and ranches. Last month, immediately upon China reneging on commitments made during the trade talks, President Trump committed USDA to provide up to $16 billion to support farmers as they absorb some of the negative impact of unjustified retaliation and trade disruption. In addition, President Trump immediately signed into law the long-awaited disaster legislation that provides a lifeline to farmers, ranchers, and producers dealing with extensive damage to their operations caused by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019.

“Given the size and scope of these many disasters, as well as the uncertainty of the final size and scope of this year’s prevented planting acreage, we will use up to $16 billion in support for farmers and the $3 billion in disaster aid to provide as much help as possible to all our affected producers.

“I have been out in the country this spring and visited with many farmers. I know they’re discouraged, and many are facing difficult decisions about what to do this planting season or if they’ve got the capital to stay in business, but they shouldn’t wait for an announcement to make their decisions. I urge farmers to plant for the market and plant what works best on their farm, regardless of what type of assistance programs USDA is able to provide.

“In the coming weeks, USDA will provide information on the Market Facilitation Program payment rates and details of the various components of the disaster relief legislation. USDA is not legally authorized to make Market Facilitation Program payments to producers for acreage that is not planted. However, we are exploring legal flexibilities to provide a minimal per acre market facilitation payment to folks who filed prevent plant and chose to plant an MFP-eligible cover crop, with the potential to be harvested and for subsequent use of those cover crops for forage.”


For frequently asked questions regarding the USDA Risk Management Agency’s prevented planting policy and losses resulting from floods, please visit, here. For several frequently asked questions regarding how USDA will treat prevented planting acres with regard to the recently announced 2019 Market Facilitation Program and 2018/2019 disaster relief legislation, see below.

1. What is the purpose of the Market Facilitation Program? What is the legal authority?

The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) assists farmers with the additional costs of adjusting to disrupted markets, dealing with surplus commodities, and expanding and developing new markets at home and abroad, consistent with the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act.

2. Last year, soybeans had the highest MFP payment per bushel, should I plant soybeans this year to get the highest payment if I have the opportunity?

You should plant what works best for your operation and what you would plant in any other year, absent any assistance from USDA. 2019 MFP assistance is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to the MFP-eligible crops (outlined below) in aggregate in 2019. Those per acre payments are not dependent on which of those crops are planted in 2019, and therefore will not distort planting decisions. Your total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed your total 2018 plantings.

2019 MFP-eligible non-specialty crops: alfalfa hay, barley, canola, corn, crambe, dry peas, extra-long staple cotton, flaxseed, lentils, long grain and medium grain rice, millet, mustard seed, dried beans, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, rye, safflower, sesame seed, small and large chickpeas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, temperate japonica rice, triticale, upland cotton, and wheat.

2019 MFP-eligible specialty crops: tree nuts, fresh sweet cherries, cranberries, and fresh grapes.

3. My fields never dried out enough to get any crop in, do I get a 2019 Market Facilitation Program payment?

No, USDA does not have the legal authority to make MFP payments to producers for acreage that is not planted. To qualify for a 2019 MFP payment, you must have planted a 2019 MFP-eligible crop. Producers unable to plant their crop should work with their crop insurance agent to file a claim.

4. I filed a prevented planting claim and I am going to plant a cover crop to prevent erosion, does that count for 2019 MFP if it’s on the 2019 MFP-eligible list you announced in May?

If you choose to plant a cover crop with the potential to be harvested, because of this year’s adverse weather conditions, you may qualify for a minimal amount of 2019 MFP assistance. You must still comply with your crop insurance requirements to remain eligible for any indemnities received.

5. I heard that I could get 90% of my crop insurance guarantee as a prevented planting payment through the disaster bill, is that true?

The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 gives the USDA the authority to compensate losses caused by prevented planting in 2019 up to 90%. While the authority exists, USDA must operate within finite appropriations limits. It is highly unlikely that the supplemental appropriation will support that level of coverage in addition to crop insurance. Congress appropriated $3.005 billion in assistance for a wide array of losses resulting from disasters throughout 2018 and 2019, requiring USDA to prioritize how it is allocated. The Department plans to provide assistance on prevented planting losses within the confines of our authority.

6. If I plant a second crop or cover crop, can I still get my full prevented planting payment? What about an MFP payment?

You must comply with crop insurance requirements to remain eligible for a full prevented planting indemnity. USDA encourages you to visit with your crop insurance agent to ensure you are aware of those various options for your operation. If you choose to plant a cover crop with the potential to be harvested, because of this year’s adverse weather conditions, you may qualify for a minimal amount of 2019 MFP assistance.

7. I have heard that only acreage in a declared disaster area will qualify for prevented planting under the Disaster Relief Act. Is that true?

USDA is currently evaluating the new authority provided under the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019. However, it is generally true that producers with qualifying losses in a Secretarial or Presidentially-declared disaster area will be eligible for Disaster Relief Act assistance. Producers with qualifying losses outside of those areas will have eligibility determined on a case-by-case basis.

8. I have a revenue protection policy with a ‘harvest price option’, do I get the higher of the projected price or harvest price for my prevented planting payment?

The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 gives the USDA the authority to compensate losses caused by prevented planting in 2019 and also provides additional authority to compensate producers on the higher of the projected price or harvest price. USDA is currently exploring legal flexibility to provide assistance that better utilizes the harvest price in conjunction with revenue and prevent planting policies.

9. If I am prevented from planting but manage to get a cover crop or a forage in the ground, am I able to hay or graze that prior to November 1, given the forage shortage we’re going to experience?

USDA encourages you to visit with your crop insurance agent to ensure you are aware of those various prevented planting, cover crop, and harvest options for your operation. USDA is currently reviewing the prevented planting restrictions in the Federal Crop Insurance Act to determine what options may be available to address this and other issues. Further clarity regarding this haying and grazing date will be forthcoming.

10. What if I don’t have crop insurance? How do MFP and disaster relief programs work for me if I’m prevented from planting due to natural disasters?
Crop insurance is not required to qualify for 2019 MFP assistance. However, USDA requires that a producer plant a 2019 MFP-eligible crop to qualify for the 2019 MFP assistance.

If you choose to plant a cover crop with the potential to be harvested, because of this year’s adverse weather conditions, you may qualify for a minimal amount of 2019 MFP assistance.

The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 gives the USDA the authority to compensate losses caused by prevented planting in 2019. Producers with qualifying losses in a Secretarial or Presidentially-declared disaster area will be eligible for Disaster Relief Act assistance. Producers with qualifying losses outside of those areas will have eligibility determined on a case-by-case basis.

CURTIS, Neb. – New students who will be attending the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture this fall can attend sessions on June 18 or July 16 to prepare for moving onto campus in late August.


“We are expecting 34 of our incoming students to participate in New Student Enrollment for this second session on Tuesday, June 18,” said Tina Smith, NCTA admissions coordinator.


A first NSE session was in April, and the third opportunity is July 16.


The day includes presentations by NCTA Student Services staff on what to expect as new students on campus, Smith said. Academic advising, campus tours and a student “checklist” are featured.


Students and parents follow an extensive checklist to ensure new Aggies are prepared.


Details include setting up access for personal devices and technology needs, completing forms, finalizing financial aid, and most importantly, meeting with academic advisors in a chosen field of study.


“It’s not too late to join the Aggie family. Simply complete our online application at NCTA.unl.edu,” said Smith.


“At $131.50 per credit hour our affordable tuition rate for all students is the right choice to start an education in agriculture.”


NCTA is the sole two-year campus of the University of Nebraska system. It emphasizes associate degree programs, certificates or transfer options only in agriculture or veterinary technology.


Once accepted for admission to NCTA, students are directed to New Student Enrollment details.

LINCOLN, NEB. – “President Trump’s signing of the disaster assistance bill is tremendous news and an important step forward in helping Nebraska farm and ranch families and our rural communities recover from the March flooding and blizzards in our state.”

“This disaster bill includes roughly $3 billion to cover crop damage, including additional funding for farmers prevented from planting due to the floods, as well as payments for on-farm stored grain that was damaged in these flooding events. The bill also provides $558 million in funding for the Emergency Conservation Program, the primary program farmers and ranchers can utilize for fence repair and debris removal, including clearing sand from farm fields.”

“We want to thank the entire Nebraska Congressional delegation for their support for the disaster assistance package and for President Trump signing this package into law.”

“We urge USDA to move forward as quickly as possible in developing the rules and implementing the key programs so they can be put to work in helping Nebraskans.”

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Industrial hemp is the new buzzword in Kansas agriculture, but the message is clear: No hemp or hemp-derived products, including CBD oil, are currently approved for use in animal feed, including pet food.

That was the word from Kansas Department of Agriculture officials during a May 23 webinar with K-State Research and Extension agents and specialists.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also referred to as the Farm Bill, expanded production opportunities for growing hemp across the country. This year is the first year it’s legal to grow it in Kansas but only within research programs outlined by the Farm Bill.

KDA has developed the Kansas industrial hemp research program, which offers potential for diversification for Kansas farmers looking for an alternative crop or for new farming enterprises, according to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam.

“The Kansas agriculture industry is committed to pursuing new and innovative opportunities to grow agriculture,” he said, “and the research generated by participants of this new industrial hemp research program will be valuable data in identifying the growth potential offered in this sector.”

Industrial hemp can be used in various products including paper, biodegradable plastics, and construction materials.

Two agencies regulate feed and feed ingredients in Kansas – the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, said Ken Bowers, feed technical director with the KDA Dairy and Feed Safety Program.

Bowers said feed ingredients used in animal feed in the United States undergo a scientific review by the company that is proposing the ingredient. The company submits the review through one of several avenues for approval, but to date, no hemp or hemp-derived products have been approved. The regulations are designed to keep animals and humans safe.

“That’s the only way to get a legal, approved ingredient,” he said.

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine has safety concerns that must be addressed through scientific studies regarding Tetrahydrocannabinol THC and CBD. These concerns and scientific studies have not been addressed yet by industry, Bowers said.

Extension educators around the state have been fielding questions about whether hemp or hemp-derived products can be used as feed ingredients, said Justin Waggoner, beef cattle specialist with K-State Research and Extension and webinar coordinator.

“It’s really important that our stakeholders are knowledgeable on industrial hemp and what can and can’t be done with it in the state of Kansas,” said Dana Ladner, KDA compliance education coordinator, during the webinar.

More information is available on the Kansas Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Research Program website and on the K-State Research and Extension Industrial Hemp information page. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture also has a resource page.

CURTIS, Neb. – They came to college prepared to work, ask questions, learn, and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission on Postsecondary Education brought appointed members and staff to Curtis on Wednesday, making their first official visit in nearly a decade to the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

Their role:  to see first-hand the programs, facilities and mission of the University of Nebraska’s two-year campus which specializes in agriculture and veterinary technology.

“This was more intense and very specific, more so than in the past, we have seen one or two buildings before,” explained Mary Lauritzen of West Point, who has visited NCTA twice before during her 19-year tenure with the commission.

“It’s like a luxury to be able to actually wallow in this place, see the changes, touch the animals, visit with the students here this summer from Rwanda, which is a major accomplishment for NCTA, and again, to see NCTA’s progress over the last 19 years, in my eyes,” Lauritzen added.

The commission usually meets in Lincoln, but goes throughout the state visiting post-secondary programs which include five campuses of the University of Nebraska, community colleges, state colleges and more, said Mike Baumgartner, CCPE executive director.

He and NCTA Dean Ron Rosati started planning the group’s visit last year. The commission’s business meeting was Thursday in North Platte.

“We like to get out on the ground, see the colleges, meet the instructors, faculty, and students,” Baumgartner said.

“NCTA is performing a very significant role in the industry and meeting the agricultural needs in the workforce for our state and globally,” he said.

Timing also coincided with the second week of summer classes for 50 students from Rwanda, who have completed their freshmen year at the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Undergraduate Scholars Program (CUSP) at UNL.

Commissioners observed afternoon classes in animal health, welding, livestock reproduction and construction.  They also toured facilities and then helped CUSP teams with chores for dairy, poultry, swine and goats.

“They were very busy vaccinating some of the goats in one area,” said Paul Von Behren of Fremont, retired veterinarian and commissioner. “I was impressed when we went into the dairy barn with the cleaning they were doing. Everything was very meticulous.”

In later discussions about biosecurity and global animal issues such as African swine fever, Von Behren emphasized the value of hands-on learning with livestock and complimented the CUSP program underway through UNL and NCTA.

After completing four-year degrees at UNL and a summer session or more at NCTA, the CUSP scholars will return to Rwanda and work with small-scale farms and expanding agricultural enterprises.

“Any point of influence we can have on a foreign nation is going to come back to help us in Nebraska, and in American agriculture,” Von Behren said.

Several of the commissioners commented about the unique aspects of the campus and workforce training.

“The opportunity to see all of these animals, work with the students and learn about NCTA has been a great experience,” said Gwenn Aspen of Omaha.

“It is impressive that the college is ranked 11th nationally in two-year institutions based on graduate earnings.”

NCTA Dean Ron Rosati said he appreciated the commissioners taking time to travel to Curtis, located south of North Platte in Frontier County.

“Their visit allows them to gain a better appreciation for what occurs at a college like NCTA. They are obviously very dedicated to doing their job well,” Rosati said.

“Spending time on our campuses helps commission members gain a deeper understanding as they make decisions concerning Nebraska’s higher education institutions,” he added.

WASHINGTON –Nine U.S. Senators, led by Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today raised concerns that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will continue to allow foreign companies to profit from the Trump Administration’s plan to assist American farmers affected by their trade policies.

Last week, the Administration announced it would provide up to $1.4 billion to purchase commodities targeted by retaliatory tariffs. In the previous round of aid, lucrative purchasing contracts were awarded to several foreign entities, including nearly $62.5 million in pork products from JBS USA, which is owned by Brazilian parent company JBS SA.

“…It is counterproductive and contradictory for these companies to receive assistance paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars intended to help American farmers struggling with this Administration’s trade policy,” the Senators wrote.

The USDA has indicated that foreign corporations could continue to profit from tariff aid. In a written response, the Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs stated the USDA would take no action to prevent foreign companies from profiting from U.S. taxpayer-funded aid, writing that the agency “awards purchases to the lowest bidder through their procurement process and will not manipulate the integrity of the process to exclude particular companies.”

“It is unacceptable that American taxpayers have been subsidizing our competitors through trade assistance,” the Senators wrote. “We ask that you ensure these commodity purchases are carried out in a manner that most benefits the American farmer’s bottom line –not the business interests of foreign corporations.”

The letter was signed by Senators Stabenow, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patrick  Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The full text of the letter is below. A PDF of the letter is available here.

Dear Secretary Perdue:

As you know, American farmers continue to be caught in the middle of the Administration’s action on trade, and face ongoing challenges from retaliatory tariffs imposed by key trading partners. While we understand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) desire to aid farmers impacted by this trade disruption, we urge you to stop making trade mitigation commodity purchases that benefit foreign-owned companies.

Last year, the Administration made up to $1.2 billion available for commodity purchases through a new Food Purchase and Distribution Program, which was intended to assist producers harmed by retaliatory tariffs. Under this program, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will continue to make hundreds of millions of dollars in commodity purchases throughout the rest of calendar year 2019.

On top of that, you recently announced that the Administration is planning further trade mitigation assistance, including additional commodity purchases. As such, we are deeply concerned that the Department’s efforts to assist farmers harmed by trade disruptions may continue to benefit foreign-owned entities.

Under the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, the USDA has awarded lucrative purchasing contracts to several entities with foreign ownership, including $240,000 in pork products from Smithfield Foods, a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned WH Group, and nearly $62.5 million in pork products from JBS USA, which is owned by Brazilian parent company JBS SA. While the USDA permitted Smithfield to terminate its purchasing contract upon the company’s request, the Department awarded numerous contracts to JBS and has not established sufficient procedures to ensure that taxpayer-funded trade assistance for American farmers is not ultimately benefiting foreign companies.

Whether it’s the WH Group, which is closely tied to the Chinese government, or JBS SA, which is benefitting from the U.S’s loss of market share in certain countries, it is counterproductive and contradictory for these companies to receive assistance paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars intended to help American farmers struggling with this Administration’s trade policy.

Following a U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee hearing on U.S. agricultural trade in September 2018, this concern was raised with Ted McKinney, USDA’s Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. He was asked how USDA would ensure that these trade mitigation commodity purchases would benefit American farmers and not benefit foreign-owned companies. In response, Under Secretary McKinney showed no concern with commodity purchases benefitting foreign companies, writing, “AMS awards purchases to the lowest bidder through their procurement process and will not manipulate the integrity of the process to exclude particular companies.”

It is unacceptable that American taxpayers have been subsidizing our competitors through trade assistance. We ask that you ensure these commodity purchases are carried out in a manner that most benefits the American farmer’s bottom line –not the business interests of foreign corporations. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02) today urged Congress to support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement; a bipartisan treaty that benefits American farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers by fixing longstanding imbalances and cutting regulations. This trade agreement will grant American farmers and businesses greater freedom to sell their goods and products throughout North America without the interference of government appropriations.

“Failure to bring this approval to the floor would put American farmers and workers at risk. As a nation of free trade, we must do what is best for America,” said Rep. Bacon. “To do this, non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies must be eliminated and replaced. USMCA offers a fairer playing field for America. Every change in this agreement is better than NAFTA. I urge Congress to bring this to the House floor for approval.”

Rep. Bacon is a member of the House Agriculture Committee which has general jurisdiction over federal agriculture policy including agriculture, forestry, nutrition, water conservation, and other agriculture-related fields. The Committee can recommend funding appropriations for various governmental agencies, programs, and activities, as defined by House rules.

Japan and the U.S. are accelerating trade talks in hopes to reach a quick agreement. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe  indicated the U.S. and Japan will speed up trade talks as Tokyo faces increased pressure to reach a deal in the next six months to avoid auto tariffs.

However, Politico reports talks between the two likely won’t advance quickly until after Tokyo’s election in July. Trump, ending a summit and visit to Japan, says agriculture products are “heavily in play” in the talks, particularly U.S. beef. Farmers in the U.S. are eager to see an agreement since Japan and other nations entered the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, after the U.S. left the then-called Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017.

Trump suggested an announcement on parts of an agreement could come sometime in August. Trade experts expect a deal to take longer, however, as the talks, focusing on automobiles and agriculture, will take more time than predicted by the U.S. and Japan.

Whether it’s by choice or because of a natural disaster, there are times when cows and calves end up in a drylot. The good news is it can work.

For Alan Eck, drylotting is a choice. The 26-year old Henderson, Maryland, farmer is growing his operation, which includes corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, straw, hogs and broilers — as well as a small cow/calf and finishing operation. He doesn’t have the land available to graze year-round yet, so cows and calves spend April through October in a pen at a former dairy. They graze rye cover crops in the winter.

University of Nebraska cow/calf specialist Karla Jenkins says, “Buying pastureland can be cost-prohibitive for young people. Management for cows in drylots is a little different, but it can be quite feasible.”

In a 2016 University of Nebraska study, researchers compared the break-even price per pound of weaned calves and found a total confinement system for cows and calves was the most expensive production system, with a production price of $2.11 per pound. A system where cows were kept in a drylot only in the summer, grazing cornstalks the rest of the year, was the least-expensive system, at $1.31 per pound.

Jenkins notes actual break-even costs depended on a number of factors, including feed and health costs, cow costs and other inputs. There’s also the drought factor.

“A drylot is a means to keep people from cutting quite so deep in their herd,” she says. “When you have to start culling those younger cows, it hurts financially, especially considering replacement cost.”


When it comes to managing cows and calves in a drylot, University of Georgia Extension animal scientist Jacob Segers tends to think of feed challenges first.

“Normally, in our area, [use of drylots] is due to a problem that causes pasture loss. I’m concerned that cows get enough nutrients and roughage in their diet. You don’t want them to drop a lot of weight. To keep the rumen healthy, they need [to consume] at least one-half a percent of their body weight per head per day of roughage. For a 1,200-pound cow, that is 6 to 7 pounds of long-stem hay or wheat straw, or some kind of effective fiber.”

In a drought or any disaster, Segers notes hay quickly gets scarce and prohibitively priced. He says producers can turn to substitutes like cotton gin trash or peanut hulls. In Nebraska, Jenkins says ranchers often use baled corn stalks or wheat straw to help cows get enough roughage, or they feed byproducts like beet pulp.

“You can get creative, but it is important to know the cow’s nutrient needs during each stage of production, as well as nutrient levels of the feed,” she stresses.


Because use of a drylot is a regular part of Alan Eck’s production system, he normally has an ample supply of homegrown grass hay that he feeds free-choice. In addition, he feeds a mix of homegrown ground corn and barley, along with soybean meal. He puts everything in a self-feeder and says cows eat an average of 10 pounds per head per day. Ration cost averages around 61 cents per head per day.

Eck hasn’t seen any acidosis or bloat in his cows, but Segers cautions this can be a problem when cows are offered a grain mix free-choice. If that happens, he limit-feeds or makes a hot mix with salt to lower consumption.

When limit-feeding, he stresses it’s important to make sure there is enough trough space. He recommends 28 to 36 inches of bunk space per cow. Make sure both water sources and feedbunks are low enough for calves to reach. They will start eating feed early this way, and that will help rumen development.

Eck has seen that benefit firsthand. He says it’s an advantage to have calves eating grain mix beside their dams. He uses the same ration for weaning and finishing, so this early exposure smooths the transition.

It is important to make sure cows and calves have enough room in a drylot. Segers recommends 500 to 800 square feet per cow/calf pair. In the Midwest and the Plains, where spring is often cold and wet, Jenkins says calving in drylots adds challenges.

She recommends calving on fallow crop ground rather than in a drylot, so baby calves aren’t in the mud. If that’s not an option, she says to consider adjusting calving season to keep them out of the lot when they are more vulnerable to illness. It’s also important to remember all calves in a drylot may need immunity boosts and more frequent vaccinations to stay healthy.


Putting cows and calves in a drylot is a choice for some. For Florida’s John Hill, it was the only option he had, and in his mind, it was not a very good one.

Hill’s experience with a semi-drylot situation began Oct. 10, 2018, when Hurricane Michael hit his Marianna farm and wiped out almost every fence on his 350-cow registered and commercial Angus operation. And, with the power out, he had no way to run his wells and water cattle.

“There was a pond where the grown cows were, so I put the yearling heifers and bred heifers in with them,” Hill says.

That left 60 mature cows, including 12 that had just calved, and both groups of heifers for a total of 200 head in a 50-acre pasture. While there was bahiagrass in the pasture when the hurricane hit, it was going dormant and was quickly grazed down.

The hurricane did blow 25 rolls of hay into the pasture from the adjoining hayfield, so he relied on it, although he says a wet summer lowered the quality.

Supplementing cattle wasn’t a workable solution. “We’re not equipped to feed commodities; we don’t have a feed wagon or enough troughs,” he explains. Plus, two of his tractors were out of commission because of hurricane damage.

Rather than try to gear up to feed the 200 head, he, along with friends, family and volunteers, worked brutal hours to clear paths in the downed trees to get cattle to water and to make lanes for trucks to haul them out.

Hill shipped the yearling heifers to sale but says the few weeks with no supplement set them back badly. The bred heifers went to ZWT Ranch, in Tennessee, where his friends there are calving them out and rebreeding them, and they’ll stay until he can get his fences up.

Even though it was late, he did get winter annuals planted for his cows and calves, and is using the high-quality forage to put condition back on them. He is also still working nonstop to clear downed trees off fencelines and rebuild his 15 miles of fence, so he can group his cattle by age and stage of production, and supplement them, as needed.