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Beef Systems

Click to view Archived News Articles by Ben Beckman
Ben Beckman is a beef systems Extension Educator serving the counties of Antelope, Cedar, Knox, Madison and Pierce.  He is based out of the Cedar County Extension office in Hartington.  You can reach him by phone: (402) 254-6821 or email:

Snow can be great thing for those wishing for a white Christmas this year, but producers hoping to winter animals on crop residues or pasture, too much snow and ice can be an issue. How can winter weather impact your herd management this year? Taking advantage of winter grazing resources can be a viable practice, but knowing how to handle snow and ice is critical for success.
Dry conditions put a squeeze on forage resources and can lead to some difficult herd decisions for managers. To address this, producers need to either look at optimizing their forage resources, or reducing demand from the cow herd. Managing animals during drought is never fun or easy, but with planning and careful decision making, your herd can make it through to the greener pastures ahead. Take stock of feed resources and develop a plan to match animal needs with what is available. Consider dormant grazing or strip grazing crop residues to get the most out of forage resources. Plan ahead for supplementation to get cost effective feeds. When culling look at records to identify low producing animals, and consider using this year’s heifers as a flexible option to keep around.
Could a look at your fertility improve pasture and grass hay production next year? Soil sampling now, before the ground freezes can help with planning this winter and give time to develop a fertility plan if our soil tests show fertilizer is needed. Before deciding on a fertility plan, the economic value of a treatment should also be considered.
Two upcoming programs for farmers and ranchers will be offered in-person or online. On Thursday, December 10, is Farmers & Ranchers College from 9:15 am - 12:00 pm. On Thursday, January 28, from 9:30 am - 3:00 pm is Partners in Progress Beef Seminar: Cow/Calf College. Register at
As producers, we do what we can to make sure the hay we store for winter is in the best shape possible. We cut at the appropriate time, try to bale at optimum moisture contents, and even give the plants we harvest a hand by irrigating and fertilizing when able. Even with all this help, the nutrient value in hay can change drastically from year to year, or even in the same field cut at a similar time. Testing hay can take a bit of time, but accurately knowing the value of forages this winter can save money and help when it’s time to make decisions about providing supplemental feed.