Prepare Now to Stay Ahead of Any Summer Drought

Prepare Now to Stay Ahead of Any Summer Drought

February 19, 2016

Drought is likely to be a problem again this summer, at least somewhere in Nebraska.  Because hay can be costly when pastures are short, we need to consider ways to minimize damages if we receive less than average rainfall.  Fortunately, early spring is a time you can take steps to minimize some of drought’s problems.

For starters, prepare a strategy for using any remaining hay.  One of the better options is to feed hay a bit longer into spring before turning cows out to permanent pasture.  I know this action is exactly opposite of my usual recommendation to graze more and feed less hay. But, allowing pastures to accumulate a bit more growth before grazing begins will provide more total grazable forage if drought prevents much later regrowth.  Leftover hay also can be used later during the grazing season to give pastures more time to recover between grazings.

Another strategy is planting annual forages for pasture or hay.  Some excellent choices are oats planted as early as possible or summer annual grasses like sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, and pearl millet planted once soils are good and warm.  Late May or early June usually is best for these grasses.  So reserve some ground now for these drought-insurance grasses, before you plant everything
to corn, beans, and other crops.  And don’t forget about possibly planting these grasses or even some fall cover crop forages into wheat stubble as a double crop after harvest.

If the rains don’t come, planning and acting now to reduce potential forage losses from drought will pay big dividends.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist