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Planning for Droughts PDF Print E-mail
Written by Julie Elliott, NRCS rangeland management specialist   

In the last article, I said grazers need to walk each of their pastures to determine how good the range might be this year. Since acres do not feed cows—only 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 tie it to a sharpened dowel rod to hold it up. Take your camera or a cell phone so you can take pictures of the yardstick both standing up and laying on the ground.

When on the range you need to look down, not across. You want to see how much grass is out there and what kinds of grasses are out there.

The next features to note are dead grass plants, bare ground and litter. Dead grasses have a black or dark grey color in winter and summer. Dead grasses are not going to grow, no matter how much water you pour on them. Bare range ground heats up faster, evaporates more moisture, soaks in water slower, and is more likely to wash or blow than ground that is covered. The more litter cover we have, the faster our range will recover.

In addition to these above ground features, we need to consider what is happening below ground. When the leaf volume is reduced, either due to overgrazing or drought, root growth and replacement is reduced or stopped. Smaller root systems lead to plants that are less capable of recovering from drought or grazing. If the plant cannot make enough food, it will burn the roots for energy.

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Holyoke Enterprise April 3, 2014