|Planning for Droughts|
|Written by Julie Elliott, NRCS rangeland management specialist|
In the last article, I said that grazers need to go out and walk each of their pastures to determine how good the range might be this year. Since acres don’t feed cows—grass feeds cows—we need to determine how much grass is out there.
Take a yardstick or a ruler that has been sharpened a bit to a point with you. Or you can tie it to a big staple or a sharpened dowel rod to hold it up.
Take your camera or a cell phone too so you can take pictures of the yardstick, both standing up and laying on the ground. When on the range, we need to look down, not across, to see how much grass is out there and what kinds of grasses are out there.
The next feature to note is what else is, or is not, on the ground. The most important of these are: dead grass plants, bare ground and litter.
Even in the best of conditions, plants die every year. In droughts like those that we have had for the last 2-12 years, depending on where you are, those plant losses are even higher. Dead plants will not grow leaves no matter how much rain you pour on them.
Now, dead plants are easy to find in the summer, at least in summers that turn green. The dead plants are the ones that are not green. When living grasses are dormant, whether winter or summer, it is still easy to tell the live ones from the dead ones.
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