1998 Drought Information - Survival Kit

Drought Management Strategies 1998

Larry Redmon
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences
Oklahoma State University

  1. Producers should consider selling cattle to reduce the need for what will be expensive feed inputs. Hay and supplements are both expensive inputs; hay will be the most expensive during the present drought. Serious budgeting should be done to estimate feeding costs.

  2. Be suspicious of warm-season annual grass hays. Prior to purchasing or cutting/baling grasses such as sorghums, sorghum-sudans, haygrazers, or millets have a sample of the forage checked for nitrate accumulation. These warm-season annual grasses have a good deal of heat and drought tolerance and although may be tempting regarding hay for fall and winter feeding, these same grasses are among the most likely to accumulate nitrates to a toxic level. Members of the genus Sorghum can also produce prussic acid. These grasses should not be grazed if drought stressed, but if low in nitrates, will be safe to feed as hay.

  3. Do not use any herbicides during the present drought.

  4. Have 50 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre in place on warm-season grass pastures to produce as much forage as possible in the event of precipitation. Besides grazing the grass as soon as it appears, producers will want to stockpile some for grazing during October and November. This will reduce the hay requirement. See OSU Extension Facts F-2587 Bermudagrass for Grazing or Hay and F-2570 Reducing Winter Feeding Costs.

  5. For those that presently have a cool-season perennial grass pasture, have 50 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre in place by Labor Day. Fall forage will be critical considering the present drought.

  6. If there is not a cool-season perennial grass pasture, be prepared to plant a cool-season annual grass pasture. Recommendations would include a cereal rye-ryegrass mixture overseeded into existing warm-season perennial grasses such as bermudagrass or Old World bluestem. A cool-season annual pasture will be the least expensive way to winter cattle if a perennial pasture is not available. See OSU Extension Facts F-2587 Bermudagrass for Grazing or Hay and F-2571 Cool-Season Annual Forage Grasses.

  7. If the drought does not break through the winter, burning pastures (rangeland or introduced) may not be advisable. Dry standing forage may have to be used along with a crude protein and/or energy supplement.

  8. Remember this drought and build in a drought management strategy for future ranch operations. Consider reducing present herd size to 75% and use calves as flex grazers to utilize additional forage in good years. See OSU Extension Facts F-2870 for more information.

  9. Producers should decide whether they own cattle as a hobby or a business. Recognize they raise livestock as a business, they will likely have to make some difficult decisions regarding cattle ownership at this time.

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
Oklahoma State University