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Rancher explains how yearlings can be an effective drought management tool

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Yearlings can be used as an effective drought tool when managed correctly, according to Logan Pribbeno, a fifth-generation rancher from the Wine Glass Ranch in Imperial, Neb. Pribbeno shares his knowledge on a Feb. 23 University of Nebraska-Lincoln BeefWatch webinar.  

“I found stockers to be a fantastic drought tool, and I believe they have many benefits,” he shares.  

Pribbeno has gathered data from intensive records he kept while running stocker cattle on the Wine Glass Ranch.  

Winter stocker management 

Many producers learn through trial and error, and Pribbeno is no stranger to this concept.  

“It is difficult to run stockers when it is cold and snowy,” he shares. “I learned this the hard way.”  

“Winter is important, maybe even more important than summer,” Pribbeno adds. “Winter is 200 days long, and if steers gain 0.77 pounds per day for 200 days, their gain during the summer won’t make up for gain lost during the winter.”  

He continues, noting stocker cattle markets are dependent on performance, “In order to run stockers in this area, steers need to be supplemented. The Wine Glass Ranch tends to supplement in large quantities.”  

Additionally, Pribbeno explains, “We primarily graze rented irrigated wheat pasture. I prefer wheat pasture because it is a hardy annual plant and performs well with little to no rain, but can also do well with higher than average rainfall.” 

Varying stocking rates 

Oftentimes, stocking rates vary. However, stocking dates are not as flexible. Pribbeno explains he typically turns cattle out on wheat pasture by March 20.  

“Due to the hardiness of the wheat plant, I can usually count on the March 20 turn out,” he says. “Rarely do I have to retain cattle from wheat fields.” 

He continues, “At the ranch, we tend to run our stockers on wheat fields from March 20 until May 1. After this, we move the stockers to native rangelands and found we can run between 700 and 1,300 yearlings per grazing group.”  

Pribbeno shares he learned a hard lesson when he ran 3,000 yearlings in a grazing group.  

“There was a problem every day,” he says. “I would even go as far as to say there was a problem every hour.”  

Pribbeno notes stocking rates are good for first-year profit, whereas stocking density is how a 10-year plan can be successfully managed. Stockers are a great option due to their ability to take advantage high-quality forage.  

Benefits of stockers 

Pribbeno adds stockers are more flexible than cow/calf operations during drought years.  

“Research shows Nebraska rangeland is in highest quality from April to June,” he shares. “We often move stockers to rangelands in May, and we are able to pull cattle off before the forage quality drops.”  

Pribbeno notes water is another important tool for producers utilizing stockers as a drought tool. Additionally, stockers can provide several expansion opportunities for producers.  

“Wheat pasture and forage crops are a unique way to expand,” he says. “I would rather have 1,000 acres of wheat pasture than 1,000 acres of native range.”  

According to Pribbeno, grazing stocker cattle maximizes native range harvest, noting producers can get more pounds of beef per acre. The opportunity to create a steer feedlots want, while planning for management flexibility, provides a unique opportunity for producers.  

Madi Slaymaker is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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