The drought has had huge nutritional impacts on cow-calf production. In many places because grass wasn’t available, there were increased costs of production when producers had to feed some type of supplement.

“Calf performance and cow health deteriorated in later stages prior to weaning,” explains Jennifer Saueressig, PhD, beef nutritionist at Overton Veterinary Services in Lexington, Neb. “We had to wean calves early to stretch grass for cows and have had to feed a ration to these smaller calves.”

Saueressig says a lot of these rations would include silage which is a challenge for 350-400-pound calves because they are not really a functioning ruminant quite yet. “You also have to look at the amount of distillers grains you can add because of phosphorous and sulfur.” Cost is also challenge. Distillers had been more expensive compared to corn so it has been backed out of some diets.

“Calves come off little-to-no grass and are nutrient deficient, so we have to get them up on feed a little slower” she says. “If they were not on a good mineral program and have been deficient in trace minerals, we may also be looking at decreased immunity and we’ve had some health issues earlier on.” Saueressig notes that other drought-related health issues from the dry and dusty conditions have included pneumonia and pinkeye.