UC Cooperative Extension piloting new drought decision support tool for ranchers
Most ranchers in the West are well aware that the U.S. in the second year of another significant drought. As of June 15, nearly 89 percent of the West is in moderate to exceptional drought. California ranchers are coming off one of the driest rainy seasons in memory.
While many producers have already started implementing drought plans, others are still considering their options. Based on lessons learned during the 2012-16 drought, we understand these decisions are difficult, but critical to the long-term viability of ranches.
To this end, University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension Livestock and Natural Resources Advisors Grace Woodmansee, serving Siskiyou County, Calif., and Dan Macon, serving California’s Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties, have created a Drought Strategies Decision Support Tool to help producers walk through specific strategies to deal with on-the-ground conditions. This tool will guide ranchers through developing their forage outlook for the next 12 months. It will also help producers relate their reactive strategies, like weaning lambs early or selling breeding-age females with ranch goals and proactive drought strategies.
In addition, the tool is intended to help ranchers establish a critical date by which they will take action. The tool is linked to a series of simple spreadsheets to help producers analyze the costs and benefits of several key strategies such as feeding hay, weaning early or selling livestock.
Woodmansee says the tool was developed based on her research into rancher strategies during the 2012-16 drought. She notes, “We realized in talking to producers who managed through this drought that reactive strategies like supplemental feeding are related to proactive strategies, like resting pastures to conserve forage. We hope ranchers will use this tool and provide us feedback on how we can make it even more useful.”
For more information, or to provide comments and feedback, contact Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or Macon at email@example.com.