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Ranch Management in Drought 2020   arrow

Infographic with a man looking at the horizon and the text "hoping for rain is not a drought strategy"

Managing drought on the ranch? With very dry conditions in the the southern and western part of the state, we’ve compiled some resources for ranch drought management in 2020, spanning alternative forages to stress management, to decision tools, to family decision making.

Looking to make a drought plan? We have information on drought planing here. Most of the drought planning strategies are best used before a drought when there is more flexibility in time, resources, and mental energy.

Below are “response” resources to manage your ranch in the dry conditions in 2020.

Ag & Business

Agriculture & Business Management – Decision Tools

Decision tools

Drought Planning

Alternative Forages

Forage Testing & Alternatives

Picture of a cow with the words "explore alternative feed options with expensive"

Alternative forages could be a money saving strategy because the cost of hay can increase substantially in drought. Check out the resources below for more info. If you do choose an alternative forage, make sure you get it tested. Some forages, such as sorghum, can concentrate nitrates in drought and stressful conditions. Excess nitrates can be toxic to livestock. Check out the resources below for more info.

Emergency Preparedness

Stress Management

Drought Planning

Rangeland Management During Drought

Drought Planning

Graphic of a drought planning process including "planning", "doing", "learning" and "assessing"

“Triggers” in Drought Management

A graphic with a landscape picture and text describing triggers in drought management

“Triggers” are used in drought planning as a specific sign that activates a management response. A trigger might be percent of average precipitation, or a stock pond that fills (or doesn’t) by a certain date, couple with an action like “de-stock by a certain amount” or other action. For example from a Nebraska ranch has formulated their trigger this way:

  • They usually receive 75% of the precipitation between Nov. and June 15.
  • If they receive less than 80% of average precipitation between Nov. 1 and June 15, they estimate that the forage crop will be reduced by 30%, and de-stock accordingly (de-stock 30% by weight).

Resources for creating “triggers” inlcude:

For eastern Colorado, GrassCast is one tool to understand forecasts for forage production. This tool gives estimates based on precipitation scenarios and years of rangeland production data.

Poisonous Plants

Forecasts: Weather & Markets

Cattle Market Report Lists

Picture of various drought monitoring maps

Weather & Climate Information