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Extension Agent: Drought issues on feeding

By By Joe Janak
Jan. 17, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 16, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.

Joe Janak

The drought continues for many ranchers, and many used rice hay, right-of-way hay, vacant lot and huisache covered pasture hay, sugarcane bagasse and now some are using sugarcane leaf stripping.

While quality may be poor to fair at best, some of it will fill a cow.

According to Joe Paschal, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist in Corpus Christi, sugarcane leaf stripping are pretty low in crude protein, about 3 to 4 percent (cows need 8 to 12 percent) and are pretty low in energy, about 35 to 45 percent (10 to 20 points low).

This type of hay should be supplemented with 5 to 6 pounds of range cubes to meet their protein requirements, or 2.5 to 3 pounds of cottonseed meal. At best, this may prevent further weight loss.

South of Victoria, some folks are burning prickly pear and that is a tried-and-true drought supplement.

Rick Machen, Beef Specialist in Uvalde, recently wrote an extension bulletin on it (nothing new except the new burner that is pictured, about $250 to $300), but if you don't know anything about pear burning and need to know more, it is a good reference.

The new equipment requires large propane tanks, so the older method is still the best for hand held and carried burners. Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBzD-l5PLhM to view a video on burning prickly pear.

Paschal also reported a lot of cattle are eating brush and coupled with the coarse leaves in poor hays and huisache branches, some cattle are damaging their tongues and mouths.

One of the major causes of woody tongue is abrasions and sores in the mouth that allow bacteria to invade the tongue.

Actinobacillosis begins with an inability to control the tongue and progresses until it is very hard. The tongue generally sticks out of the mouth.

Another problem to lookout for is lameness, probably because of cracked hooves in the dry weather, with or without some sort of internal infection.

Another issue - cattle that eat mesquite beans and are used to eating them generally don't get mesquite poisoning, but cattle in other parts of the state are now eating tremendous amounts.

Mesquite is not poisonous, but the amount of sugar in the bean disrupts rumen function and can reduce the ability of that animal to digest feed.

Cattle lose their appetite, lose weight, become nervous and may have jaw and tongue problems. Generally, it occurs after long-term consumption, more than two months, of mesquite beans.

Keep a watchful eye on your livestock and stay in touch with your local veterinarian.

Scorpions' glow

Several years back, I attended a training conducted by Dr. Roy Parker, Extension Entomologist in Corpus Christi.

It covered insects, their role and collecting them to study and learn from. One of the unique things we learned was that scorpions glow at night under ultraviolet light. This has always been a curiosity to me.

To find scorpions at night, switch on an ultraviolet light. Under such a beam, scorpions glow a vibrant, blue-green, lighting up like beacons against the darkness. Collectors even use black lights to find specimens at night.

According to Parker's recent notes, no one knows why scorpions glow, and a number of reasons have been given. Recently, Douglas Gaffin, University of Oklahoma, suggested an intriguing idea. He thinks the scorpions glow to convert the dim UV light from the moon and stars into the color that they see best - blue-green. This could explain why scorpions' eyes are so exquisitely sensitive, to the point where they can detect the faint glow of starlight against the background of the night sky.

They amplify those faint signals by turning their entire bodies into light collectors, which can detect the slightest change in light that may even be from a shadow caused by friend or foe. In a way, their entire bodies are like eyes.

Interesting, but use this knowledge to your advantage. Scorpions a problem? Go search for them at night with an ultraviolet light and a fly swatter.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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