Drought was the topic on everybody's mind as the Kansas Graziers Association held its 2013 Winter Conference in Salina on Jan. 19. The theme of the conference was "Back to the Basics of Grazing Management."
"Drought is mind consuming; every conversation begins and ends with the weather," said David Kraft, Natural Resources Conservation Service state rangeland management specialist. Drought is defined as precipitation less than 75 percent of the average, Kraft said, "The current drought can be traced back to August of 2010."
Kraft said a person should always manage a pasture in one of three ways to improve the vigor of a plant. First, you are preparing for a drought, second, you are under the influence of drought, or finally you are recovering from a drought.
Kraft gave a set of steps to approach a drought management plan.
First, define the ranch or forage enterprise and define the animal enterprise. Identify the ranch's risk possibilities and ability to endure those risks. Be aware of the general health and genetics of the livestock as well as the health and type of forage they are consuming.
Be sure you know your trigger dates. Dormancy usually occurs in October and plants start to grow around April 1.
Kraft said that 70% of rainfall in Kansas occurs between April and September and about 70 percent of production of rangeland occurs by July 1, which is roughly midpoint of grazing season.
"However, you need to remember that cows don't follow the calendar and you need to be aware of conditions as well as dates," Kraft said.
He said ranchers should identify decisions to be made when conditions dictate. That includes destocking, culling, early weaning or using a set aside forage resource if you are in drought. He said it is important to write a drought management plan.