Good grazing management on Wyoming ranch prevents destocking.
Posted on: Mar 04, 2013
The drought of 2012 was tough on many in the ranching community. Many ranchers destocked, many began feeding in the summer months, and many watched their feed bills sky rocket. Others, however, had been practicing good grazing management for many years, and their land entered 2012 in a much higher plane of performance. While plant productivity was definitely lower, their land still produced sufficiently to prevent destocking and costly supplemental feeding. These producers managed through the dry year of 2012 quite well and will be entering the growing season of 2013 in a strong financial and ecological position.
As an example, precipitation in August 2012 on one Wyoming ranch was 66% below the area's average, which presented a difficult scenario for management. Yet plant production and vigor were sufficient to provide enough forage that this ranch did not destock, did not require additional supplemental feeding, and calves were not weaned early. Photos below show the strong plant vigor in some of their pastures.
This picture, taken in mid-August 2012, shows a pasture in the peak of the hot season. This area had not received rain in several weeks, yet abundant standing forage was available for livestock soon to enter this pasture. Enough forage grew here to maintain nearly the historical stocking rate enjoyed for many years. When moving cattle through a series of pastures, having such standing forage in front of the herd provides great comfort that the financial integrity of the ranch will be maintained.
This photo, also taken in mid-August 2012 but in a neighboring pasture, shows a steep, gravelly slope (a challenging growth environment for some grasses) containing tall, standing growth. Even without rain in many weeks, these grasses achieved tall stature, and a little green growth may still be seen within those plants. Again, having that much standing forage in front of a herd of cattle was greatly comforting in the challenging year of 2012.
The standing forage shown in these pictures is an indicator of strong grazing management practiced through many years. The water cycle on this ranch was effective, and the ability to take advantage of any precipitation in the dry year of 2012 made a huge difference for this operation's income and expense statement. Simply put, in one of the toughest years anyone can remember, the ranch's income did not decline, and expenses did not increase. This example well demonstrates that critical balance of finance and ecology, and these ranchers are able to capitalize off both.
For more information on the importance of balancing forage and supply with demand, see here.