Drought is a common occurrence in Nebraska. This page is designed to help beef producers design a drought management plan and to provide ideas to consider before and during a drought.
Current Drought Monitor
D0 (Abnormally Dry)
D1 (Moderate Drought
D2 (Severe Drought)
D3 (Extreme Drought)
D4 (Exceptional Drought)
Visit the Drought Monitor site.
- Feed, Ship, or Sell - Outlines the three main options to reduce stocking rates: supplement/substitute feed, ship cattle to non-drought areas and sell cattle.
- Managing Cows Through Dry Conditions – provides insights on options for feeding the core cow herd during a drought.
- Have a Drought Management Plan for Your Cow/Calf Enterprise - briefly outlines the three main drought management strategies: livestock inventory, use of existing forage resources, and alternative feeding programs.
- Beef Cow Herd Culling Strategies - covers things to consider when trying to determine which animals should be culled due to the reduced availability pasture.
- Early Weaning Beef Calves Sometimes Makes Sense - discusses the use of early weaning of calves as a tool to save forage for the cow herd.
- Management, Health, and Nutritional Considerations for Weaning Calves - NebGuide G2057- discusses methods of separation, dietary considerations, and disease prevention to successful early wean calves.
- Use the Feed Cost CowQLator to Compare Feed Options with Drought Conditions - outlines how to price and compare feed options using the Feed Cost Cow-Q-Lator an Excel® spreadsheet tool to determine what feed options may be most cost effective on protein and energy basis.
- Body Condition Scoring Beef Cows: A Tool for Managing the Nutrition Program for Beef Herds, EC281 (PDF 2MB) - Discusses how to use body condition to assist in evaluating the nutritional program of cows to ensure a productive herd.
- Management Considerations When Relocating Beef Cows in Drought Conditions - provides a series of questions that producers should ask when relocating animals to another location as a part of a drought management plan.
- Management Considerations for Beef Cows in Confinement - NebGuide G2237 - outlines things to consider when choosing to manage and feed cows in confinement as an alternative to liquidation. A companion webinar on Youtube called Drylotting Cows - How to Feed Them? is also available.
- Siting Considerations and Environmental Management for Temporary Feeding Areas - provides information on two webinar recording which discuss: 1) regulatory considerations and options for managing a temporary confinement situation to minimize environmental impact, and 2) logistics such as pen and bunk space requirements as well as managing temporary drylots.
- Breeding Cows in Confinement - outlines the factors to consider when breeding in confinement including nutrition and bunk space needs.
- Drought Planning Trigger Dates - The amount and timing of spring and early summer precipitation is an important factor in determining annual plant production. Using critical or trigger dates can help producers adjust stocking rates if precipitation, and the resulting forage production, is expected to be below average.
- Pastures and Drought: Response and Impact - Understanding the short and long term impacts drought can have on pasture is important as we update drought contingency plans. Planning ahead can reduce the long-term impacts and help make difficult decisions easier in the heat of the moment.
- Grazing Management with Variable Plant Production in the Nebraska Sandhills, EC3039 - outlines strategies to appropriately understand and match forage demand from grazing animals with annually fluctuating plant production on native rangelands in the Nebraska Sandhills. Long-term plant production research at the UNL Barta Brothers Ranch highlights relationships between plant production and growing season precipitation in a mixed grass grassland.
- Skillful Grazing Management on Semiarid Rangelands, EC162 - describes grazing forages reproduction, the growth patterns of plant parts, and managing grazing and drought conditions.
- Grass-Cast - uses well-known relationships between historical weather and grassland production. It combines current weather data and seasonal climate outlooks (from NOAA Climate Prediction Center) with a well-trusted grassland model (DayCent) to predict total biomass (lbs/acre) for individual counties, compared to their 38-year average. Managers can use grass cast to form a more educated guess about the upcoming growing season and inform the design of proactive drought management plans, trigger dates, stocking dates, and grazing rotations.
- Reducing pasture forage intake by feeding while grazing - outlines options to allow cows remain in the pasture substitute another feed as a part of the cow's daily feed consumed to reduce pasture forage intake.
- Drought Increases Toxic and Poisonous Plant Risk to Livestock - discusses some of the reasons why drought causes this issue and provides a link to common poisonous plants to look for in western Nebraska. The Extension circular Nebraska Plants Toxic to Livestock provides information to assist with identifying and managing toxic plants.
Cropland Forage Resources
- Forage Production with Limited Precipitation or Irrigation - points to resources and information on how to made the most out of limited precipitation and how annual forages can be used in production systems to provide additional feed.
- What to do with High Nitrate Forage? - provides management options for high nitrate forages to reduce the risk of toxicity
- Ammoniating Crop Residues as a Feed Resource - discusses how to ammoniate low quality forages to improve both the energy and protein content
- The Use and Pricing of Drought-Stressed Corn, G1865 (PDF version) - discusses identification of drought stress in corn, the effect of drought stress on yield, and options for using corn as a forage resource.
- Options for Drought Damaged Corn Fields - discusses how corn that has been affected by drought can be used as a feed for cattle, including how to determine if it can be ensiled.
- Drought Corn Silage in Beef Cow Diets - discusses how to incorporate drought damaged corn silage in to beef cow diets.
- Grazing Drought-Stressed Standing Corn - discusses how to manage the allotment of drought damaged corn for grazing.
Government Assistance and Tax Considerations
- Forage Production, Beef Cows and Stocking Density and Their Implications for Partial Herd Liquidation Due to Drought - What strategy should producers who are wanting to maximize profits do given a drought? Producers will likely make one or both of these decisions: 1) destocking or 2) depopulating. If producers depopulate, what does this potential partial beef cow herd liquidation mean for cull cow and feeder cattle prices will likely differ based on geographical region?
- Pasture Rangeland Forage Insurance is a Risk Management Tool for Producers - Discusses how producers can use this risk management tool to provide income to offset loss of forage production due to drought conditions.
- Utilizing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for Grazing in Drought Conditions - discusses what to consider when deciding whether or not to use CRP for grazing.
- The 2014 Farm Bill and Disaster Assistance for Livestock Producers - outlines the disaster assistance programs that are available to livestock producers, including Livestock Forage Program (LFP) which provides assistance to livestock producers suffering grazing losses due to drought conditions.
- Tax Consequences to Drought - discusses the tax deferral options that are available when dealing with a drought.
The Drought Monitor shows a map of current conditions as well as links to forecasts. The National Drought Mitigation Center website has information that is valuable for beef producers, including Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch which has a planning guide for great plains ranchers.
Are you looking to purchase hay? The Nebraska Department of Agriculture Hay and Forage Hotline sellers list can help you find producers that have hay for sell.
Want to know if CRP in your county is eligible for emergency haying or grazing due to drought? The USDA FSA provides updated info here.
Please see the Drought Resources website for additional information related to other topics such as Crops, Domestic Water, Home & Garden, and more.
Watch the UNL Beef Drought Management Webinar Playlist on YouTube.