With snow, rain and flooding in many parts of the country, it is tough to think about drought. But, drought is still plaguing many areas, and can quickly return with the heat of summer.
University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson says, “Early spring is a time you can take action that can minimize some of drought’s problems.”
For starters, he suggests preparing a strategy for using leftover hay. “One of the better options is to feed hay a bit longer this spring before turning cows out to permanent pasture. I know this action is exactly opposite of my usual recommendation to graze more and feed less hay. But, allowing pastures to accumulate a bit more growth before grazing begins will provide more total grazable forage if drought prevents much regrowth later on,” he says.
Leftover hay also can be used later during the grazing season to give pastures more time to recover between grazings.
Another strategy that Anderson suggests is planting drought-tolerant forages for pasture or hay. Summer annual grasses like sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, and pearl millet are excellent choices. “Wait until soils are good and warm before planting these grasses, though. Late May or early June usually is best. So reserve some ground now for these drought-insurance grasses, before you plant everything to corn, beans, and other crops,” he says.
Another option: Consider possibly planting these grasses into the stubble as a double crop after wheat harvest.
Anderson concludes, “If timely summer rains don’t come, planning and acting now to reduce potential forage losses from drought will pay big dividends.”