While farmers and ranchers have a lot on their plate and mind due to the drought, it is vital that they do not let their cattle herd’s reproductive health slip through the cracks.

“I think all ranchers are a bit nervous, because things are certainly dry now and forecasts aren’t looking too promising. So I think people are struggling and starting to think about making some tough decisions,” said Rachel Endecott, owner of Grey Horse Consulting.

Breeding season is right around the corner for many producers, making it an imperative time to think about those tough decisions. Producers should aim to keep their most productive and valuable cows when deciding to downsize their herd.

“Given concerns about feed supplies and rangeland health, most producers will be facing some tough decisions in the months to come,” said Janna Block, Extension livestock systems specialist at North Dakota State University’s Hettinger Research Extension Center.

Heading into the breeding season, producers should ensure their cows are making the proper rate of gain. This could prove challenging for ranchers this year because of lack of forage due to the drought and the sky-rocketing prices for feed.

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“Reproductive management is going to be crucial regardless of the drought conditions. But certainly going into breeding, it is important to have cows trending towards a positive gain and regaining the weight they lost during the early lactation stage,” Endecott said.

Having a solid feeding strategy will be crucial for producers as they head into the breeding season; this will allow them to have a game plan and adjust accordingly.

“Ultimately, thinking about ways to manage the breeding season during drought comes down to strategic use of feed resources and increasing efficiency and productivity in the cow herd,” Block said.