How has reduced precipitation and high feed prices affected management practices? | TSLN.com

How has reduced precipitation and high feed prices affected management practices?

Steve Paisley

In recent weeks there has been considerable discussion on how to deal with continued increases in feed and fuel costs, and the impacts of these rising costs on enterprise budgets as well as long term sustainability. For western beef producers, a continued below-normal precipitation pattern must also be discussed when developing strategies for rising costs. Recently, the University of Wyoming published the results of an in-depth survey that asked Wyoming producers how they were adjusting to the continued lack of precipitation. Keep in mind that the survey was conducted in the spring of 2005, before the dramatic jump in feed and fuel costs.

Although the survey was conducted almost three years ago, it warrants discussion because of the scale of the survey (over 3,000 surveys mailed, with 1,190 responses), as well as the detailed information requested in the survey. The questionnaire was distributed by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service on behalf of the University of Wyoming, and was specifically sent to a wide range in ranch size and geographical location within the state. The survey contained questions about each producer’s resource base and production practices, marketing practices, drought impacts and management strategies, sagebrush management, as well as demographics. A copy of the survey instrument and a complete report of results is available at http://agecon.uwyo.edu/WYLivestock/default.htm

As expected, the greatest management changes were directly attributed to reduced grazing capacity, irrigation water supplies, and consequently, reductions in winter feed production. Between 2000 and 2004 producers reported grazing capacity was reduced from 84 percent to 69 percent of normal. Irrigation water supplies were reduced from 88 percent to 78 percent of normal over the same period and may have affected winter feed production that decreased from 82 percent of normal in 2000 to 65 percent of normal in 2004 for producers responding to the survey. Reduced feed availability coupled with other responses to the drought also reduced sale weights and weaning percentages. Not surprisingly, respondents also reported negative impacts to owner equity over the same time period, but a seven percent reduction in owner equity reported in 2004 was not as large as one might expect given the severity of some of the other impacts.

Wyoming cattle producers were asked to identify all of the drought management strategies they used each year during the years 2000 through 2004. The most frequently cited drought management strategies were purchasing additional winter feed, partial herd liquidation, and participating in some type of government feed assistance program. The next two most frequently used strategies were leasing or purchasing additional forage and early weaning of calves to reduce feed requirements.

In recent weeks there has been considerable discussion on how to deal with continued increases in feed and fuel costs, and the impacts of these rising costs on enterprise budgets as well as long term sustainability. For western beef producers, a continued below-normal precipitation pattern must also be discussed when developing strategies for rising costs. Recently, the University of Wyoming published the results of an in-depth survey that asked Wyoming producers how they were adjusting to the continued lack of precipitation. Keep in mind that the survey was conducted in the spring of 2005, before the dramatic jump in feed and fuel costs.

Although the survey was conducted almost three years ago, it warrants discussion because of the scale of the survey (over 3,000 surveys mailed, with 1,190 responses), as well as the detailed information requested in the survey. The questionnaire was distributed by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service on behalf of the University of Wyoming, and was specifically sent to a wide range in ranch size and geographical location within the state. The survey contained questions about each producer’s resource base and production practices, marketing practices, drought impacts and management strategies, sagebrush management, as well as demographics. A copy of the survey instrument and a complete report of results is available at http://agecon.uwyo.edu/WYLivestock/default.htm

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As expected, the greatest management changes were directly attributed to reduced grazing capacity, irrigation water supplies, and consequently, reductions in winter feed production. Between 2000 and 2004 producers reported grazing capacity was reduced from 84 percent to 69 percent of normal. Irrigation water supplies were reduced from 88 percent to 78 percent of normal over the same period and may have affected winter feed production that decreased from 82 percent of normal in 2000 to 65 percent of normal in 2004 for producers responding to the survey. Reduced feed availability coupled with other responses to the drought also reduced sale weights and weaning percentages. Not surprisingly, respondents also reported negative impacts to owner equity over the same time period, but a seven percent reduction in owner equity reported in 2004 was not as large as one might expect given the severity of some of the other impacts.

Wyoming cattle producers were asked to identify all of the drought management strategies they used each year during the years 2000 through 2004. The most frequently cited drought management strategies were purchasing additional winter feed, partial herd liquidation, and participating in some type of government feed assistance program. The next two most frequently used strategies were leasing or purchasing additional forage and early weaning of calves to reduce feed requirements.