Drought and high prices are expected to continue to affect winter livestock feeding, an area producer says.

Jack Davis, a hog and cattle producer living near Princeton, expects farmers to be forced to contend with the growing prices of hay for the winter. Davis said he expects to feed mostly hay this winter, which isn’t getting any cheaper, he said.

“They don’t seem to be getting a whole lot cheaper, but this rain we got this month and the month before helped a lot,” Davis said. “People thought they were going to have to start feeding a lot earlier than we did.”

Davis also will feed his livestock silage over the winter, which is a luxury not every producer will have, he said. Some producers in the area, he added, will likely feed some mixed grains and nutrition pellets through the winter. These alternative feeding methods, experts say, could help producers maintain their herds through the winter.

Dwindling feed resources, due to the continuing drought, might cause other smaller producers to limit the size of their herds, Davis said. Producers have been thinning their herds across the country, according to a Drovers Cattle Network magazine article.

“Some of the guys who have got smaller deals will maybe get rid of them and buy them back later rather than pay what hay’s costing,” he said, adding some in the area may already have sold some or all of their cattle to prepare for the next few months.  

Franklin County is almost 20 inches behind on the average rainfall amounts for the year, recording just 20.55 inches. The amount of precipitation the area gets during the winter likely will determine whether producers start to build back their herds in the spring.

“If it goes ahead and starts raining, there will be water in the ponds for next year,” he said. “If we don’t get any rain, we’re going to have pastures that are empty because we don’t have no water.”

There is somewhat of a bright spot on the horizon, Chris Hurt, a Purdue University Extension economist, told Drovers magazine. If producers are able to maintain at least some of their herds, he said, there may be a big payoff down the road.

“The short-term losses of the next 12 to 14 months will be replaced by large profits in late 2013, 2014 and 2015. These anticipated ‘golden days’ are based on continued reductions in per capita beef supplies, which will mean higher and higher retail beef prices, on an expected return to more normal crops in 2013 and beyond, and on record-high calf prices and profits in late 2013 and beyond.”