Ranchers urged to develop drought response plans

Ranchers urged to develop drought response plans

A DROUGHT planning methodology has been created to encourage more ranchers to develop advance plans.

Drought planning concepts were examined in the current issue of the journal Rangelands. Noting that "a strategic objective of every ranch should be to strive for drought resilience," the National Drought Mitigation Center interviewed and brought together ranchers and advisers to develop this planning methodology, according to an announcement.

The many aspects of a drought plan include how a ranch operation will maintain natural resources, production, financial health, customer relations and lifestyle. However, drought planning is essentially part of a larger vision for a ranch. This vision might include the importance of native grass, livestock, wildlife and people in its overall goals, the announcement said.

In planning for a future drought, it is necessary to conduct an inventory of resources, understand the risks and benefits of drought and know how to monitor and measure drought. Critical dates for decision-making should be identified in advance. It is also important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all plan, and multiple management strategies may be useful.

Strategies for before, during and after drought should be in place. Some ranchers described using grazing management systems to foster desirable plant species as a way to improve pasture health before a drought. Then, when drought occurs, these ranchers know that their pastures will be in the best condition to tolerate it. Others mentioned ensuring that they have a "cushion" in their forage supply.

During a drought, ranchers need guidelines for when to make decisions about stocking rates, alternative forages and changes to burn schedules. After a drought, strategies for recovery are needed that take into consideration the severity of the drought, market trends and financial issues. These factors affect decisions such as when and how much to restock.

The insights and information gleaned from this experience went into creating a website, "Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch," which is available at http://drought.unl.edu/ranchplan/Overview.aspx.

Volume:85 Issue:08

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