Protecting Your Pastures Before, During, and After a Drought

One fact that all ranchers have to face is that there are just some factors that are out of our control, the weather being a big one. However, when it comes to drought, proper pasture management is the key to sustaining your forage before, during, and after dry conditions. 

Drought planning revolves around the three R’s: reduce, recover, and routine management.

Before a drought

Before a drought, your energy should be dedicated to reducing the negative impact the drought can have on your forage once underway. One way to accomplish this is by properly managing your pastures year-round, and being especially cautious of overgrazing and the removal of top growth, as it limits your forage’s root growth. Shallow-rooted plants are crippled during droughts because they don’t have the ability to extract moisture from deeper soil. In contrast, deep-rooted plants are often in better shape during a drought and tend to recover much faster once favorable growing conditions resume. 

During a drought

During a drought, your efforts need to be focused on future short and long-term recovery, leading us back to pasture management. Avoid overgrazing and be prepared to take advantage of any moisture you do receive. If using fertilizer, test your soil and only fertilize according to the minimum recommendation. Apply fertilizer shortly before it rains to aid in infiltration. Remove or reduce weeds and pests that compete with your forage for moisture and nutrients. And, if applicable, you’ll also want to plow and maintain fire guards or breaks along your fence line and perimeters that protect against wildfire. 

After a drought

Following the end of the drought, the speed at which your pastures bounce back is entirely dependent on a proper pasture/grazing management routine. Pasture recovery comes down to two key elements: moisture and rest. Avoiding overgrazing and excessive removal of top growth, even when favorable growing conditions return, can set your forage on a healthy growth track for many years to come, and give you a leg up during drought conditions that may occur in the future. 

How can PRF Help With My Pasture Management?

While proper pasture management is the key to drought planning, it’s not always cheap. Sometimes the decision to pull cattle off pasture or begin supplementing feed comes at the cost of selling off some of your herd. However, Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) insurance coverage on your land will trigger indemnity payments when rainfall in your area is lower than the 70-year average, giving you the flexibility to properly manage your herd and pastures without subtracting from your bottom line. 

Although the deadline for 2023 PRF coverage has already passed, you can take a free PRF Test Drive with Redd Summit Advisors. This is a risk-free way to determine if PRF is right for your operation, or compare coverage through Redd Summit with your current provider. 

Allison Blackmon

Allison Blackmon is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences, where she obtained her Bachelor of Animal Science and focused on beef cattle production and management. Now a writer at Redd Summit, she’s excited to share information, tools, and strategies with ranchers to help keep this industry profitable and sustainable for the incoming generation.

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