Managing Livestock During Drought
Posted on: Sep 26, 2012
Managing livestock during drought is one of the most challenging tasks facing resource managers and livestock producers. Forage is expected to be green and lush in the active growing season, but it simply doesn't arrive. Such dry conditions require heightened managerial attention for both livestock and land. In past posts, we offered several suggestions for managing land, but in this one, we offer a few thoughts on managing livestock.
First, keep livestock moving onto fresh ground. When livestock lose weight because they have been grazing overutilized forage, putting weight back on can be expensive.
Second, ensure that grazing distribution is optimal. If cattle aren't reaching available pasture forage, then reliance on costly supplemental feed increases. Make sure that cattle reach the forage provided to them.
Third, both of the suggestions above require plenty of pastures to move onto. Use herding and/or fencing to increase the number of pastures that will shorten the grazing duration per pasture and thus keep livestock moving onto fresh ground. Herding and fencing will also help prevent distribution problems where some parts of the pasture are overutilized, while others are not grazed at all.
That being said, we don't recommend constructing expensive permanent fencing to address these challenges. Permanent fencing may cost $8000 per mile, whereas single-strand polywire may cost $1200 per mile. Use and properly manage the cheaper option to get through challenging times.