Drought is inevitable in the Southeast.  It is imperative that cattle producers create a plan and execute it as soon as possible to minimize losses.  Here are some resources to help producers manage cattle during drought.


 Closely monitoring weather is especially crucial in drought conditions and can help producers make timely decisions to mitigate the adverse effects of drought.

General Cattle Management

Heat stress can severely impact beef cattle, and this can be exacerbated by drought.  Steps should be taken to ensure cattle have shade and access to proper nutrition and water.  Additionally, steps can be taken to decrease the nutritional requirements of the main herd by practices such as early weaning. Water issues to consider include accessibility, quality, and quantity, and may need different solutions during drought.

Water Quality

Cattle consume more water as the temperature increases.  At the same time, some water resources are reduced or eliminated during a drought.

Nutrition and Forage Replacement

During a drought, pasture availability decreases or is eliminated, and hay supplies are depleted.  Producers are faced with the choice of buying hay, utilizing a hay-replacement ration, or a combination of the two.  Additionally, when cows are hungry, they are more likely to be exposed to feeds with antiequality components such as nitrates and are likely to consume plants, weeds, and other materials, such as poisonous weeds, that they typically would not.

Forage Management

Drought can cause severe stress to pasture and hay fields.  Not only is the current yield impacted, but future yield can be negatively impacted.  Proper steps should be taken to maximize current utilization while maintaining as quick a recovery as possible.


Drought can increase the annual carrying cost of the cow herd due to the increased cost associated with feed.  Producers should be aware of the threshold when the increased cost is higher than the value of the cow, as well as the current calf crop.  This is particularly relevant in the current scenario where cull cow and feeder calf prices are considerably high. Understanding the value of the calves and the potential of early weaning, plus the value of cows and the potential to cull is important.