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Avoid A Crisis Due to Drought

Posted Jul. 31, 1996

Drought is a regular occurrence in our business. However, it is not typically as severe as we have seen during the last 13 months. Most of us began this summer with very little or no subsoil moisture and have been surviving on minimal rainfall.

I recently heard Stan Parsons define drought as "slow plant growth when you expect fast growth" or "no growth when you expect slow growth". Many of us definitely experienced slow plant growth in June and no growth for part if not all of July.

This puts us in a very uncomfortable situation especially under the current economic conditions of cheap cows and expensive feed. Many of us will be forced to partially destock or buy expensive hay. In most, if not all instances, it would be better for you to destock and cut your losses short if your available forage is limited.

Hindsight is always "20/20" but droughts should be considered normal because they will occur either regionally or locally and they cannot be avoided. Therefore, it is essential for you to make plans in advance.

If you do, you will be a minority of the population and will be able to take advantage of what is normally a crisis situation for most producers. Following is a list of things for you to consider to avoid a crisis due to drought:

  • Adjust your stocking rate to the carrying capacity of dry years and take advantage of favorable years with alternative enterprises--retained ownership, stockers, etc.
  • Know your forage flow and be prepared to adjust your stock flow.
  • Plan for water availability.
  • Add additional fencing.
  • Lengthen rest periods.
  • Know your critical dates for rainfall.
  • Have animals selected, in advance, to sell.
  • Consider early weaning to avoid poor conceptions the following year.
  • Plan, monitor, replan.
  • Do not drought feed.

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