Drought on Grazing Livestock

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • In advance, plan steps to provide feed and maintain productivity of your herd to reduce the effects of a possible drought.
  • Incorporate all your grazing animals into one herd instead of keeping them in several small ones. By having more animals in a paddock for a shorter time, the entire area gets grazed uniformly and more use is made of the less desirable plants.
  • Place your animals in a rotational grazing program rather than allowing them to continuously graze. Rest and recovery after grazing is critical to maintaining healthy plants.
  • Determine classes of livestock within your herd to liquidate if necessary.
  • Market your yearlings first, as yearlings typically get sold into the feedlot market which is not influenced by drought as much. Secondly, wean your calves early and feed them until the appropriate marketing time. This ensures calf growth and lessens feed requirement to the cows.
  • Pregnancy test as early as possible and sell open cows.
  • Supplement the grazing animals as necessary. Supplements can often be used to correct low forage quality. However, feed supplements are usually not an economical substitute for range forage.
  • Try not to feed weed infested hay. The future cost of weedy hay is very expensive. If weedy hay must be fed, feed in an area that is removed from riparian areas and wooded areas. Be sure to keep your stock confined for several days after feeding the bad hay to prevent them from spreading viable seed through their manure.
  • Incorporate annual forages into your grazing plan. By removing animals off of your perennial land, you effectively increase the recovery time of the perennial plants.
  • Strip graze your seeded land to minimize waste. By regulating the quantity of feed the animals receive each day, you will lengthen the availability of the feed resource.
  • If possible, rent additional land. Often moving the stock to the feed is cheaper than purchasing the feed and bringing it home.
  • Do not restock until you are certain that your pasture and range land has recovered.
Fact Sheets

Cattle Feeding: Limiting Intake and Adding Corn Grain

Cattle Management During Drought (early weaning) - available in PDF format only

Cow-calf corner: Culling the herd in a drought year - video

Cow Culling Decisions

Deciding When to Cull Cows

Drought Information

Drought Options: Basic Design of a Lease Agreement for Custom Feeding Cows

Drought Options: Bedding Without Straw

Drought Options: Roughage Needs

Drought Options: Supplementing Straw and Chaff to Beef Cows

Drought Management Strategies for Beef Cattle

Drylot Beef Cow/Calf Production - available in PDF format only

Effects of Environment on Forage Quality - available in PDF format only

Emergency Rations for Wintering Beef Cows - available in PDF format only

Extreme Dry Management & Planning Toolkit - available in PDF format only

Feeding in Dry Conditions - available in PDF format only

One Method of Ammoniated Straw for Beef Cattle - available in PDF format only

Substituting Grain for Hay - available in PDF format only

Supplementation During Drought - available in PDF format only

Research Papers

Let us know of good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on October 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 23, 2016.

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