Precip Was Welcome, but Continue Managing Pastures for Drought - UNL CropWatch, April 12, 2013

Precip Was Welcome, but Continue Managing Pastures for Drought - UNL CropWatch, April 12, 2013

April 12, 2013

Last week’s moisture certainly was welcome although most of us probably would have preferred it to have come as rain. Still, nearly everyone now should have enough moisture for pastures and hay fields to green up and begin growing as temperatures increase.

Don’t be fooled, however. The drought is not over. Being in a drought does not mean there is no rain. It means that the amount of moisture received is much less than average. We have a long way to go before we start approaching average moisture.

Even if you do receive average moisture during the next few months, pasture and hay production still could be less than normal. Most years we begin the growing season with quite a bit of moisture stored in the soil profile, moisture that accumulated during the previous fall and winter. That did not happen this year so you probably need several inches of rain just to get back to where your soil moisture level normally begins.

Also, the health and vigor of your pasture and hay plants may not be what you would like at this time. Last year these plants received a lot of stress from dry weather, hot temperatures, and in some cases, over use. These plants will not be as thrifty this spring; some may have even died. Those that survived will grow more slowly this spring and have difficulty regrowing rapidly after grazing or cutting. As a result, yields could be lower than average.

What this all means is that you still need to manage your pastures and haylands for drought conditions. It could take a full year or more of average precipitation to recover from last year’s drought.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist