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November 24, 2006
Reference: Forage Beef.ca
- How pasture and rangeland responds to drought depends on the previous management of the forage stand. Plants with deep root systems have the ability to reach subsurface moisture where plants with shallow, depleted root systems are affected by drought much sooner.
- Good pasture/range management begins with a grazing plan early in the season and should include drought as a possibility. Grazing plans, stocking rates, recovery periods and utilization rates all play a part in the ability to withstand a drought.
- Plant recovery periods must be the first to be adjusted as dry weather prevails. As grazed plants slow their growth, their ability to restore their root systems slows as well. More time is needed to recover from grazing.
- Combine herds to decrease the number of paddocks/pastures being used at any one time and to increase the stock density on the land. By combining herds it is easier to extend the recovery periods for the land that the animals had grazed.
- Higher stock density reduces the selectivity of the individual grazing animals. As selectivity is reduced, animals consume less desirable plants as part of their daily diet. This in itself makes more feed available at a time of deficiency.
- As animals consume the less desireable plants, they reduce grazing pressure on the desirable plants. Reduced grazing severity and increased recovery time protects the desirable plants from abuse during the dry period.
- As much as possible, leave thatch behind to provide shade to the soil surface.
- Moisture retention becomes critical during dry times. Thatch is also critical when the rains return to catch the rain drops and keep them from running away or evaporating.
- Simultaneous to adjusting recovery periods and stock density, stocking rates must be assessed. In advance, plan which classes of grazing livestock will be destocked first.
- Establish at what points the classes of animals will be removed from the land if the drought persists.
- As the rains return, be careful not to restock too soon. Maintain a long recovery period for grazed paddocks/pastures to enable plants to reestablish themselves both before the cattle come in and after they have left the paddock.
- Be aware that optimal fertility levels on the land affect the plants’ ability to recover. A part of your fertility investment can be allocated to stand recovery and a part to productivity within the year.