Drought is likely to be a problem for some areas of the state again this summer, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension forage specialist. While you can’t predict exactly where and how severe it will be, you can take steps this spring to help minimize its potential effect on your operation.
Plant drought-tolerant forages for pasture or hay. Summer annual grasses like Sudan grass, sorghum-Sudan hybrids, and pearl millet are excellent choices. Wait until soils are good and warm before planting these grasses, usually in late May or early June. Reserve some ground now for these drought-insurance grasses, before planting everything to corn, beans and other crops. Also consider planting these grasses into wheat stubble as a double crop.
Prepare a strategy for using leftover hay. Consider feeding hay a bit longer this spring before turning cows out to permanent pasture. I know this counters my usual recommendation to graze more and feed less hay, but allowing pastures to accumulate more growth before grazing will provide more total grazable forage if drought prevents much regrowth. Leftover hay also can be used later during the grazing season to give pastures more time to recover between grazings.
If the rains don’t come, planning and acting now to reduce potential forage losses can limit your risks.