Cattle need fresh water and feed after being stessed by fire. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kay Ledbetter)
By Kay Ledbetter, Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Across the state of Texas, it’s the same story over and over – the grass is gone, destroyed by fire, hay is short and soil moisture is almost non-existent.
Some tough decisions lie ahead for ranchers caught in the wake of the recent fast-moving wildfires, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist said.
“Something that is important, after they get through the emotional part of this, is looking at the long-term,” said Dr. Ted McCollum, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist. “With current conditions, if we don’t get significant rain in the next several weeks, those rangelands that burned aren’t going to be able to carry many cattle, if any, until next fall. And then, grazing will be limited.”
Ranchers planning to feed cattle after the fires need to consider that, because of the drought in other parts of the state, hay supplies are going to be short, McCollum said. Hay will probably have to come from some other region.
Ranchers opting to continue feeding their animals have several options, he said.
Low-quality hay, or another roughage source such as cotton burrs, can be supplemented with concentrated nutrients to balance out what the cattle need, McCollum said.
The other option may be to get away from the traditional thinking of feeding hay and feed a more concentrated diet, he said. Less total pounds of feed would be required, but this option may present some problems with handling and delivering of feed.
The other option that some might have to look at is selling the cattle, he said.
“Look at de-stocking partially or fully,” McCollum said. “The net loss or net gain of selling out now and buying back later may be relatively the same as trying to figure out how to feed those cows for several months.
“Immediate selling may be a necessary move for cattle that have been injured by the fire. Any cattle that have suffered heating of the feet, blistering of the udder, excessive smoke inhalation and other insults should be marketed before the injuries progress to the point that the cattle are unmerchantable.”
The potential for pasture recovery is another factor to consider when keeping cattle.