Drought management for pastures: Q & A

A Handbook for Ranch Managers Believe it or not, I have actually had conventionally trained  range management graduates slap their foreheads and say, “Dang, I never thought of that” when I told them that “the sooner you destock the less you will have to destock.” You can get rid of one cow today or you can get rid of 180 cows 180 days from today. Think about it. — jtl

Tips on getting past a drought and when you should consider destocking

cattle grazing
Photo: Adrienne Bomback

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual Q. We have just experienced the driest May on record. The growth on my pastures is pretty dismal. I am under a lot of pressure and stress. Can H M help me?

A. Yes, definitely. H M is a decision-making process. Good decision-making is always important. In difficult times it is critical. Thank you so much for asking for help.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewQ. What’s the first thing I should do to get through this drought?

A. The first and most important thing is to take care of yourself, your spouse and your family.

 Combat Shooter's Handbook Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsQ. That makes a lot of sense. I know the drought is having a negative impact on our relationships but I never thought of actually doing something to make things better. Can you suggest some actions we might take? 

A. That’s a difficult question and a very personal one. Each person and family is unique and will need to find their own best answer. Some general suggestions might be:

  1. Realizing that drought can have a huge negative impact on relationships is a huge first step. Make a plan to maintain your health. Get professional help if that is necessary. Remember being wise enough to seek help is a sign of wisdom and strength not weakness.
  2. Talk about the drought with your spouse and family.
  3. Associate with positive like-minded people.
  4. Maintain a positive attitude. Remember you are in charge of your attitude in all circumstances. A good book to emphasize this is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I highly recommend it.
  5. Develop a sense of gratitude. There are always many things to be thankful for. Dwelling on these thoughts will help you maintain a positive attitude.
  6. Believe in yourself. You have the skills and ability to get through this. Remember that life’s challenges are meant to make us, not break us. When the drought is ended you will be a stronger, more capable person.
  7. Put the drought in perspective. Every drought that has ever occurred has been ended by a rain.

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)Q. I can see that I need to care for my people. What’s the next step in dealing with a drought?

A. There are four key principles to managing during a drought:

  1. Slow down your animal moves (increase recovery).
  2. Reduce the number of herds you have.
  3. Supplemental feed.
  4. Destock.

Q. I don’t understand. I’ve been tempted to give my cows more area and to move them faster because the growth is poor. You seem to be suggesting the exact opposite. Can you explain?

A. Your idea of more area and moving faster is a normal response to poor growth. Unfortunately both of these ideas are completely wrong and need to be resisted. Our management during drought is focused on buying more time. Time for the plants to fully recover. Time to wait for the coming rain.

How can I gain time?

During a drought plants need more time to achieve full recovery. This extra time is gained by slowing down and grazing more severely. It can be done even more effectively by using temporary fencing to divide pastures into one-day moves instead of five. This will likely result in six days of grazing as opposed to the planned five days. As you increase your moves you shorten the graze period and increase stock density. The result is a more uniform and a more severe graze.

Q. I thought we were supposed to leave grass behind and not graze too severely?

A. This is a common concern. It is something to be aware of when you continuously graze. It is not an issue when you use planned grazing. Overgrazing is different than severe grazing. Overgrazing occurs by staying too long at one time or returning before full recovery. In normal growing conditions a graze period of three to five days is a good guideline. In a drought you can lengthen the graze period. You can’t overgraze a plant that is not growing. When there is no growth there will be no overgrazing by lengthening the graze period. However, there is a great danger of overgrazing by not allowing full recovery. Severe grazing refers to the amount of residue left when the cattle leave a pasture. The ideal is to leave as much as possible. The key is that you need to achieve full recovery. When you graze severely during a drought you will remove some litter. This is not ideal but it is much better than the alternative, which is overgrazing. Severe grazing followed by full recovery is not detrimental.

Q. Should you reduce the number of herds? 

A. As you reduce the number of herds you are running you increase the number of pastures available and you increase the stock density. Both of these are helpful for the reasons given above.

Q. Your third point was to supplemental feed. I’ve read that you can’t feed through a drought. 

A. Whether or not you choose to supplemental feed is a personal decision. Only you can decide if it is the best option for you. If you decide to supplemental feed it is best to start early and feed to buy more time for recovery. If we use temporary fencing and graze more severely we have the potential to add two or more days. Supplemental feed will add another day or two, buying more time for full recovery and for the rain to arrive.

Q. When should you think about destocking?

A. Once again destocking is a personal decision. Some general guidelines are:

  1. Cull cows and yearling cattle can be sold any time. If you are concerned about maintaining your cow herd sell your culls and yearlings early. You will likely be pleased with the returns.
  2. In a drought the earlier you sell some portion of your herd the more likely you will be able to maintain the balance of your herd. If you wait until the bitter end you may have to sell all of your herd.
  3. It is vital to maintain the health and condition of your animals at all times. This will allow you to receive a good price should you decide to sell at some point.
  4. If you sell your herd or a portion of it check out your tax position and make a plan. If the drought is severe there is usually a “rollover” for breeding stock.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View

edited by

Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume

Is now available in both PAPERBACK and Kindle

BookCoverImageMurray N. Rothbard was the father of what some call Radical Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism which Hans-Hermann Hoppe described as “Rothbard’s unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.”

This book applies the principles of this “unified moral science” to environmental and natural resource management issues.

The book started out life as an assigned reading list for a university level course entitled Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View.

As I began to prepare to teach the course, I quickly saw that there was a plethora of textbooks suitable for universal level courses dealing with environmental and natural resource economics. The only problem was that they were all based in mainstream neo-classical (or Keynesian) theory. I could find no single collection of material comprising a comprehensive treatment of environmental and natural resource economics based on Austrian Economic Theory.

However, I was able to find a large number of essays, monographs, papers delivered at professional meetings and published from a multitude of sources. This book is the result. It is composed of a collection of research reports and essays by reputable scientists, economists, and legal experts as well as private property and free market activists.

The book is organized into seven parts: I. Environmentalism: The New State Religion; II. The New State Religion Debunked; III. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics; IV. Interventionism: Law and Regulation; V. Pollution and Recycling; VI. Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain; and VII. Free Market Conservation. It also includes an elaborate Bibliography, References and Recommended Reading section including an extensive Annotated Bibliography of related and works on the subject.

The intellectual level of the individual works ranges from quite scholarly to informed editorial opinion.


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About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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