Producers can take wet, optimum forage growing conditions for granted, its human nature.

Things can turn quickly, which is why a drought plan is so important, says Tonya Haigh, a project manager at the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“When it’s raining it’s hard to remember what it’s like to be in a drought,” Haigh says. “When it’s dry, it’s hard to make good decisions because of the sense of concern or panic that comes.”

Eventually rains will return, but grazers need to survive those dry times.

“Drought itself is a hazard,” Haigh says. “We can experience reduction in forage capacity, damages in rangeland health and decreasing aquifer levels.”

There is a tendency to think nothing can be done during a drought. But producers can be proactive prior to drought, during drought and in the recovery phase.

“What we do before, during and after drought can really change the impacts we experience,” Haigh says.

“The more we can plan to do the things that minimize drought harm, the better off we’ll be.”

Three considerations in drought planning include:

  • Maximizing the health and flexibility of operations before drought
  • Monitoring the health of resources
  • Implementing decision-rules on critical dates when drought conditions appear

Every ranch will experience losses during drought, but some operations will be more proactive, Haigh says.

To help farmers and ranchers, NDMC offers several resources such as the Drought Monitor maps on their website. For more information on creating a drought plan visit:


For more on drought planning read our article on how a South Dakota beef producer is Beating the Odds on Drought.

Note: This story appears in the February 2017 issue of Drovers.