With dry conditions across most of Texas, now is the time for livestock producers to evaluate available forage for grazing, according to conservationists with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Historically by July first, most of Texas has received 75 percent of its precipitation for warm season grass production,” said Kent Ferguson, NRCS state rangeland management specialist for Texas. “That means they also have about 75 percent of their forage production for the year.”
Mid-year is the time to take the first step in implementing a drought plan, Ferguson said. “If livestock producers wait until fall to evaluate their forage condition, it may be too late to make changes that will both protect their grazing land and maintain enough forage for winter grazing.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Texas is experiencing some degree of drought, from moderate to extreme.
“If livestock producers look at their forage now and determine that they are 30 percent behind in forage production, they need to ask themselves what they can do to protect their resources,” Ferguson said.
He said now is the time to evaluate stocking rates. “They may want to cull the bottom end, like culling old and barren cows.”
Ferguson said adjustments now do not have to be drastic, but they can help prepare for fall. “By the end of October, warm season grasses have reached 100 percent of their production for the year. What you have at that point is all you are going to have to get you through the winter,” he said.
For example, if an area is 30 percent behind in precipitation and forage production is 30 percent below average, livestock producers in that area might consider matching that by reducing their grazing numbers by 30 percent. “If producers don’t do this,” he said, “they may not have enough grass to feed through the winter.”
Livestock producers who are following a grazing management plan will be in a better position when conditions are not optimal, Ferguson said.
NRCS works with farmers and ranchers to develop conservation plans that improve their natural resources. For assistance, contact your local NRCS office or visit the NRCS Texas website at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.