Storms Starve Livestock - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Storms Starve Livestock

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TIFTON, GA (WALB) -

Our unusual weather may be responsible for starving livestock.  Freezing conditions put a strain on winter grazing, forcing ranchers to feed their animal's poor quality hay from an unusually wet summer. 

Ranchers say cows are eating twice as much hay, but they're still losing weight. It's a struggle to get healthy cattle to the market.       

The cows grazing this green pasture are a lucky few who are eating well this winter.   "The price of cows has gone up because there's not near as many as there used to be," said Buck Aultman, Cattle Rancher.   

Aultman says two of his cows died last week because of poor quality hay. It's a $2,500 loss.    "When you don't have the protein and the energy value in your hay that affects the growth of your cow and their offspring when the calves are coming along."   

The problem stems from an unusually wet summer, which depleted hay of nutrients. Now, sub-freezing winter temperatures strain grazing, and farmers have to depend on hay.     

"During those winter months, we're calving out.  You get poor quality hay, it's a recipe for problems," said Dr. Jacob Segers, Extension Beef / Cattle Specialist.   

It's another challenge facing the livestock market after years of drought have reduced supplies of beef.   "Because cattle prices are high, people that are in this situation can sell the calves, relieve the nutritional burden off the cows and really alleviate the problem," said Kurt Lacy, UGA Extension Livestock Economist.  

Cows are eating twice as much, but are still starving.    "It's more like broom straw or wheat straw.  Something you would use-- pine straw, something you should use to mulch your garden."

Finding answers is key.   "Get your hay analyzed.  If you call me and tell me your cattle are losing weight, first thing I'm gonna ask you is what are you feeding," said Segers.    

He says supplements can help cattlemen make it through the season.    Extension agents say the hay problem may cause minor impacts to the national markets. They say the prices of calves are historically high and should continue to go up over the next year or two because of cattle shortages.

 

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