When spring approaches, ranchers begin to assess how much grass will be available for their livestock during the summer months. It’s a challenging estimate to provide, as the changing weather often changes the estimated grassland production with it. The National Drought Mitigation Center now hosts an online tool developed to address this challenge. The Grassland Productivity Forecast, or Grass-Cast, helps producers in the Great Plains and Southwest estimate during the spring how much grass will be available for livestock to graze upon during the upcoming summer. Grass-Cast projections are based on over 40 years of historical precipitation, temperature and vegetation data, which are combined with seasonal weather forecasts to predict down to county level if grasslands are likely to produce above-average, near-average or below-average vegetation.
The Grass-Cast team decided that the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), is the most appropriate long-term home for this tool, given its usefulness in drought planning. Colorado State University (CSU) servers initially hosted the website. It can now be found at grasscast.unl.edu. Beginning each spring, Grass-Cast is updated every two weeks as newly observed weather data becomes available, and it is also updated monthly when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) releases a new seasonal precipitation outlook. As part of the project, the NDMC IT team transferred the Grass-Cast site from CSU, and is fully housing, managing and updating the permanent website during the FY20, FY21, and FY22 Grass-Cast seasons.