Wyoming ranch maintains plant vigor in drought year
Posted on: Mar 29, 2013
The dry year of 2012 created many hardships for livestock producers across the country. Several ranchers moved off their grazing allotments early, many destocked early, and many also weaned calves early.
But others did not destock or wean early, and much can be learned from their grazing strategies. One Wyoming ranch has been operating with short grazing durations, lengthy recovery periods, high stock densities, and managing for moderate utilization rates for many years. While the dry year of 2012 definitely brought reduced plant productivity, it also had regrowth with little moisture. The photo below shows a pasture in mid August. The pasture had been grazed roughly 30 days earlier, and the regrowth may be seen in the foreground rangelands as being robust and of high vigor. A mix of cool and warm season grasses may be seen in this photo. Further, the ephemeral stream in the bottom of the draw contained water, even without having received rain in several weeks. The vegetation in this bottom was lush and tall.
Even with little rain, this pasture produced enough regrowth to be grazed again in winter. The water cycle in the pasture was effective enough, and plants were of high enough vigor that they remained green and growing in the late summer of a dry year. This photo demonstrates the benefits of good grazing management.
Dry cows could be turned out here, where they would perform quite well through the winter months. This rancher did not need to begin feeding hay any earlier than scheduled, which maintained his operating costs through the drought. These results demonstrate superior management ability and the benefits that accrue at the nexus of ecology and finance.