Saturday, October 25, 2014

Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch

North-Central Kansas - Adams Ranch

Cal Adams and livetock on ranch.
Cal Adams of Adams Ranch. Image: C. Adams

Ranch Location

North central Kansas


Custom grazer


  • Half  of acreage is cool season grass brome
  • Half is native grass – Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama
  • No irrigation
  • Average Annual Precipitation - 27 inches

Monitoring System:

Climate projections

  • Climate Prediction Center

Monthly precipitation

  • measures on ranch
  • Drought indices (somewhat)

Soil Moisture - to determine forage production potential for season

  • Uses soil probe

Range condition and Production

  • Uses Land EKG, has monitoring transects and has values and photos for the past ten years.
  • Uses exclusion chambers to measure production 
Grazing cage.
Grazing cage or exclusion chamber. Image: L. Myers

Forage Availability

  • Uses grazing stick, monthly or more frequently if it’s getting dry

Critical Date

March - when bringing in custom grazers for the season

Grazing System

Management intensive grazing, smallest system is a 12 paddock system. 

Stocks by the pound. So many pounds input weight per day or for the season.

Takes in cattle in the spring at green up. Takes in fall calving cows for warm season grazing (May 1 – August 10) - ¾ season. 

"That gives my native grass a month and a half to recuperate in the fall. If I’ve got residue there in the fall whenever it becomes dormant, then I’ll bring in dry cows and graze it down."

Drought Plan


Make decision about stocking rate in March (when bringing in custom grazers). Uses information from monitoring soil moisture, monthly precipitation, climate outlook, and range condition to estimate how many pounds of livestock can be supported in the coming season.

Understock rather than overstock

Write into contract, when grass is gone, cattle go home, with two weeks’ notice. Uses grazing stick to monitor available forage.

Improve hydrologic condition of pastures - make sure that there’s residue that will hold and incorporate that (moisture) as much as possible.

Not written down

Lessons Learned

"Because I’m careful and conservative here, I’ve only had to destock early on one occasion in the last eight years." 

"Everybody thinks that grass is just that land that you can’t farm. My wife thinks that you can say everything you need to say about grass in about two minutes if not less. And that’s not so. Managing is as complex if not more complex than managing corn, wheat, beans, milo, what have you."

"I’ve been slow in marshalling resources and allocation and time to my drought management program. You sort of shoot from the hip, and things that worked you do again."

The National Drought Mitigation Center | 3310 Holdrege Street | P.O. Box 830988 | Lincoln, NE 68583–0988
phone: (402) 472–6707 | fax: (402) 472–2946 | Email Us

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Copyright 2014 National Drought Mitigation Center