Drought Planning Always Involves Destocking

Fodder for Thought

In drought, better to have no cows with no grass than to have cows with no money and no grass.

Published on: July 11, 2012

You can't feed your way out of a drought!

I've heard that saying time and again from many in the ranching business, yet there always seem to be those individuals who think if they can just buy some more hay…they just might make it through the drought

The key word here is "might."

Betting the future of your ranching enterprise on "might" or "maybe" decisions is risky business. To help reduce this risk it's wise to have a drought plan. By doing so you'll be light years ahead and have a lot less worries.

A key rule is to worry about the things you can control and forget about the rest. This way you limit your losses. Ranching for Profit's Dave Pratt recommends drought plans include a destocking policy and identify a critical rain date: a date by which, if it hasn't rained, you know you're in trouble. This date is the trigger for you to know when to destock.

Destocking may sound like the worst-case scenario. However, it's one of the most important tools in drought management.  By knowing when to quit, you cut your losses and ensure the sustainability of your livelihood. It's much better to have no cows when there's no grass, than to have cows but no money and no grass at the end of a drought.

This week I attended an advanced grazing school hosted by the University of Kentucky. Drought was the buzz word of the day. Almost every speaker session included at least one question relevant to drought management. Livestock producers everywhere are hurting and searching for solutions to deal with the situation.

It's hard for many to accept but drought has always been a part of the ranching business. The increasing prevalence of drought conditions across the nation today has shown producers they can't afford to not have a plan. It's time we all start being more proactive in our farm and ranch management. Tough times don't last, but being prepared for them will make the circumstances a lot easier to deal with when they do arise.

Learn more about drought planning strategies here.