Leased Pastures During Drought

Leased Pastures During Drought August 4, 2017

Are you grazing cattle on rented pastures?  If so, the current drought or abnormally dry conditions may force some important decisions.

No matter whether you own the cattle or own the pasture, or maybe both, when dry weather reduces pasture growth way below original expectations, adjustments are needed. Continuing to graze while ignoring the dry weather and reduced pasture growth risks damage to both the pasture and the livestock.

  • Landowners risk having the pasture become overgrazed, resulting in future weed problems,
    reduced long-term production, and lowered value. 
  • Cattle owners risk poor performance or health of the livestock due to less forage and lower quality feed.  This can lead to higher supplemental feed costs or being forced to sell the cattle.

Ideally, you have a written lease and have included clauses that identify conditions that require
removal of animals. Check those conditions now and act on them if needed. Unfortunately, many pastures are rented without written leases or if written, without drought clauses.  If this describes your situation, now might be a good time to initiate discussion about how you will handle the grazing if growing conditions don’t improve. Planning now helps avoid arguments and panicky decisions later.
This discussion should include who decides to remove the cattle and what criteria will be used for that decision.  Also discuss any adjustment in rent because less grazing was provided.  Usually, it is best to design the agreement so both landowner and cattle owner share in losses associated with drought.  This may be especially important if you hope to conduct business together in the future.

Drought can cause a lot of headaches, but good planning and communication can reduce some
of the pain.