FARGO, N.D. — During the 2021 growing season, all of North Dakota experienced some level of drought. The drought started in the fall of 2020 and developed into one of the most severe droughts on record. Extreme drought (D3) and exceptional drought (D4) were introduced on March 18 and May 20, respectively. This is the earliest these conditions have been introduced during the growing season since the inception of the U.S. drought monitor in 2000.
“Having a plan in place, with well-defined trigger dates for implementing drought management strategies, helps ranchers get through the drought and minimize losses,” says Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “The longer ranchers wait to make management decisions, the fewer options become available and a greater risk of overgrazing, reduced livestock performance, the need to sell or cull more animals and greater economic losses will occur.”
“To aid ranchers in developing drought plans and navigating the on-going drought NDSU Extension specialists hosted webinars,” says Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist. “In February and March, they hosted a series focused on preparing for drought, followed by an on-going monthly webinar focused on strategies to address drought at the ranch level. These series were broadcast live to 213 individuals and the videos have been viewed 2,305 times.”
“Participants indicated that the webinars increased their knowledge of the topics covered including: drought trigger dates, grazing strategies, supplemental feed options, livestock water, herd management and managing stress during drought,” says Kevin Sedivec, NDSU Extension rangeland management specialist. “In addition, 19 participants indicated they created a new drought plan or updated an existing drought plan following the webinars impacting 4,141 head of livestock grazing 41,020 acres.”
“The Navigating Drought on Your Ranch webinar series empowered participants to implement drought management changes,” says Meehan. “A total of 28 participants reported making management changes impacting over 7,300 head of livestock and 93,555 acres of grazing land.”
“Common management changes reported by respondents included adapting grazing systems, adjusting stocking rates, purchasing supplemental feed, monitoring water and feed quality and implementing strategic culling strategies,” says Meehan. “In addition, 14 unique participants intended to make changes potentially impacting an additional 2,003 head of livestock and 12,708 acres of grazing land.”
The drought webinars hosted by NDSU Extension provided timely information to aid ranchers in the development of drought management plans and strategies for their ranches. The recordings from these webinars are available at https://youtube.com/playlist?
— NDSU Extension