Cattle ranchers finding alternative feeding methods amid drought

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Cattle ranchers across the state are having a hard time finding feed for their livestock. Some have been forced to find alternative feeding methods.

The drought has caused ranchers to choose between traveling, sometimes out of state, for hay, or changing their livestock’s diets.

Cody Hatzenbuhler of Pan Ag says some pastures in the state did not green up until halfway through June.

He said this had devastating effects on forage quality and explains how forage quality is tested.

“If they have forage already out there, we actually go out there at their feed wagon. We take a sample, send that to the lab. That’s going to show us what’s in that feed,” said Cody.

Cattle Rancher Stephanie Hatzenbuhler says she’s tried several feeding methods.

She said, “We feed a lot of straw, distillers, wheat screenings. They don’t like eating straw the best.”

Straw is more of a filler for the livestock, but cattle ranchers are looking for a more nutritious alternative.

Not only are the dry conditions and lack of nutrients causing headaches for farmers and ranchers, but the heat can affect next year’s calving season.

Stephanie said, “They don’t breed as good in the heat. The quality of the grass out there isn’t the best. Even if you’re trying to supplement feed like we’re doing, they’re probably not getting the proper amount of nutrients.”

This year, she changed things up.

She said, “This year we’ve tried some liquid feed, which has kind of been the cream of the crop since we are out of silage. So, that product ends up being, it’s kind of like putting chocolate in your milk. It coats everything so the cattle eat it.”

The cattle are getting more nutrients, and they are enjoying their new menu item, which is produced in North Dakota.

Cody said, “We’re using sugarcane molasses to boost up the protein, plus bring in the minerals and vitamins to the cattle.”

Stephanie said she may use the liquid feed going forward and wants to encourage other producers to plan ahead.

She said, “It’s a tough year, so have a plan. Try and get together with a feed consultant, anybody that can figure out for a reasonable rate, how you can feed your cows.”

Of course, they recommend a plan that fits your livestock and your budget.

Experts also recommend water quality testing as drought conditions can impact the water you give to your livestock.

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