National Drought Mitigation Center

Start Here Before Drought

1. Understand Drought

Understand how drought affects your forages, livestock, and finances
If you’d like to gain a better understanding of how drought affects your area, how drought affects grasses, livestock, and grazing management, how drought impacts cattle market cycles, or how planning for drought can make a difference in your bottom line, this is the place to start.

2. Plan for Drought

Form a Planning Team
You don't need to prepare for drought by yourself. Find resources and people who can help you.

Clarify your goals and objectives
Do you know what you are trying to achieve on your ranch? What are your goals for production, natural resources, finances, and family life on your ranch? You've got to know where you want to go, before you can figure out how to get there.

Take inventory - what do you have to work with?
One of the first steps in developing or updating your drought management plan is to inventory your resources. You need to know what resources you have available and the condition of those resources, including natural resources, livestock, finances, and personnel. Do you have a good idea of how susceptible your farm or ranch is to drought? Knowing how droughts began and progressed in the past will allow you to develop a realistic drought plan.

Identify critical dates and targets
Critical dates are timely monitoring points in annual management cycles. Each critical date should have an action plan which clearly states target points for initiating the plan.

Learn to monitor drought, forage resources, livestock health, and finances
Recent droughts have taught ranchers about the need for long-term monitoring of the weather, and their livestock, vegetation, and financial resources. Monitoring should begin in advance of drought, so that you have the information you need to make fast and effective decisions near the beginning of drought and before prolonged drought cripples your plan, animal, and financial resources.

Plan strategies to get forage resources, livestock, and finances ready for drought
The next step is to develop and implement a plan that maximizes the overall health, resilience, and productivity of your ranch operation. Healthy systems are better able to tolerate drought. Incorporating the likelihood of periodic drought into your overall ranch plan and grazing strategy will increase the likelihood that your pastures, livestock, finances, and family will successfully make it through the next one.