Plan Now for Forage Production in a Drought - UNL CropWatch, December 5, 2012

Plan Now for Forage Production in a Drought - UNL CropWatch, December 5, 2012

December 5, 2012

With Rain and Without — How to Adjust Forage and Grazing Options

In January on NET Extension specialists Bruce Anderson and Jerry Volesky will be looking at two forage and grazing scenarios for Nebraska producers: normal precipitation  in 2013 and continuing drought conditions. The programs will be broadcast on NET2 at 7 p.m. CT on the following dates.

January 17 — If the Drought Ends: Grazing and Forage Options

January 24 — Grazing and Forage Options with Continuing Drought

After the initial broadcasts, both shows will be available for viewing on UNL's Beef.unl.edu website.

Drought is hard to prepare for and even harder to predict.  Last summer caught a lot of people by surprise and now we are paying the price with high feed costs and limited availability. Next year, though, shouldn't catch anyone by surprise.

The potential for starting the crop season with a full moisture profile is limited or nonexistant across much of the state, according to recent forecasts from UNL climate specialists. The November 26 USDA Nebraska Weather and Crops reported topsoil moisture at 72% very short; 24% short, and only 4% adequate with subsoil moisture even lower at 80% very short, 18% short and only 2% adequate.

Unless you receive lots of extra, good soaking moisture next spring, dryland yields are likely to be below average. In addition, many pastures were grazed more heavily than usual last year and root systems may have been weakened. Even with good rains, spring growth could be delayed or slower than usual.

Now's the time to take a realistic look at your livestock program so you can adjust. Consider:

  • If it stays dry, can you afford to keep doing what you've been doing?
  • Should you plant annual forages to get more hay?
  • Should you rent more corn stalks for winter grazing?
  • How about grazing more stockers and fewer cows or selling your cattle and renting your pastures?
  • If it does rain, how can you take the most advantage of it?

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist