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This Year’s Drought Leave You Dry of a Plan? Plan for Future Drought

Updated: May 17

Fence line along a pasture
Fence line along a pasture

The United States is in a multi-year drought, with the Western U.S. experiencing the worst drought in over 1,200 years in 2022. For a rancher, drought is defined as not enough soil water to meet dominant forage’s needs during their growth period. A multi-year drought happens over 3-5 years of this moisture shortage, having implications on ranch’s resources, economic reserves and stress levels. Ranchers can plan for drought on their operation to mitigate its effects.

When thinking of ways to mitigate drought’s effects, healthy soil is the first step. Healthy soil is like a sponge. It dictates how the ground captures water and holds it in the soil. This can help reduce runoff and soil erosion – two important aspects to soil health but also help sustain plants during drought. When there is a lack of moisture in the soil, photosynthesis is limited, and plant growth is reduced or delayed. This delay during plant’s growth windows affects the current year, and the next year’s growth.

What effect does this have on livestock? If plant growth is truly limited during drought, livestock gain and conception rate is affected. With less moisture in the soil and limited forage availability, forage quality is affected through cattle’s selective grazing of the best forages first.

We are sharing ways to help overcome the stark effects on soil and livestock health.

Have a drought plan

A drought plan helps to define your ranch operation’s goals, establish what information will prompt action within your drought plan, and decide what strategies you can implement to reduce the economical, ecological and social impacts of drought. Some areas to focus on in this plan are: key communication and planning partners such as key family members, bankers and more, your ranch goals and objectives to plan for drought and beyond, operational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats during drought, inventory of all resources on the ranch such as moisture, forages, finances, and more, critical decision-making dates, and monitoring and re-evaluating your plan over time.

Create longer grazing cycles

Typically, you may want to rotate your cattle through paddocks at a quicker rate to increase vegetation regrowth and vigor. During a drought, ranchers may consider lengthening the amount of time cattle spend in the paddocks before rotating them to increase the rest and recovery period of other paddocks that are not being grazed. Forages need more rest during drought periods. These longer grazing cycles must be monitored closely to ensure the forages are not being overgrazed and that cattle’s overall body condition is still good.

Plan for next year

Rest an amount of your pastures to not be grazed for an entire year, and to be grazed the next year. By deferring these rangelands, cattle can begin grazing on those vigorous forages in the next grazing season. The pastures not rested in the previous year can then get some rest. This improves forage health and the health of the cattle consuming forages with more nutritional availability.

Implement technology to allow pastures rest

It can be difficult to completely remove an entire pasture from a grazing season. If you have a pasture that has certain areas that need rest but they are not easy areas to fence off, consider adding Corral Technologies virtual fencing technology to your operation. It allows you to cross-fence any terrain into any shape with the click of a few buttons. Plan ahead for next year by signing up for Corral’s 2024 Preorder Program.

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