Updated February 2018
Droughts can have negative impacts on our pastures that could last for years to come. In addition, the more your pastures are stressed and overgrazed, the longer it will take them to recover. Most producers can easily overcome seasonal or localized drought by feeding hay reserves or buying hay at a reasonable cost, but when drought is regionalized and extended, there is not an easy way to keep production levels high. It is very difficult to sell cows and reduce stocking rates, but our focus needs to be placed on the health of our pastures if we are going to be profitable over the long term. Continued overgrazing will only further degrade the land, causing even more problems in the future.
While welcomed rains can happen, don't be deceived and think everything is back to normal. While it's certainly nice to have forages to graze, winter annuals will use much of the soil moisture and nutrients, and reduce their availability for our warm-season forages. In other words, if we don't receive adequate rainfall in late April, May and June, we will have drought conditions during the growing season. Producers are encouraged to evaluate their historical stocking rates and reduce cow numbers by as much as 50 percent if they haven't already began to done so.
Here is a list of strategies for you to consider in times of drought:
Finally, keep your eyes open and stay ahead of the game as much as possible. Do not stick your head in the sand hoping everything will be okay. Have a plan and don't be afraid to make tough decisions. A wrong decision is often better than no decision at all.