For rangeland and pasture based livestock operations, drought impacts land resources by reducing the amount of forage produced and the amount of stock water available. Drought planning should begin BEFORE the rain stops falling! Use these resources to begin building your own drought plan:
Livestock Management During Drought (UCANR Publication)
Foreststeward-Summer2014-final - great information on forestland and oak woodlands
Critical date is the date by which, if it neither has not rained or that has not been significant growth, you know that your are in a drought and will be short of feed. This is the trigger date by which you will implement your destocking plan.
In a typical California foothill rainfall year, March 1 might serve as a red flag that monitor forage growth and rainfall and April 1 could be the critical date. Most people would wait until sometime in May to assess feed conditions. This year was different. The pro-active critical date was January 1 or earlier and February 1 was definitely a time to implement the destocking plan.
A major grazing management principal is adjust the stocking rate to changes in carrying capacity on an annual and seasonal basis. Stocking rate is the number of mouths out there grazing (demand) and carrying capacity is the amount of forage (supply). We determine how many animals we will graze (stocking rate). Mother nature determines how much feed we grow (generally high rain means at least adequate forage growth; low rainfall means less than adequate forage growth). While we don’t have control over when and how much rain we will receive, we do have control on how we stock the range.
Culling earlier rather than waiting things out reduces hay feeding costs, leaves more available forage for the remaining herd, and allows you sell in a more normal market. One blessing has been that the market has remained relatively high due to previous droughts in other parts of the country that have kept downward pressure on cattle numbers. These areas have started to recover from drought and are looking for animals to purchase.