South Dakota Grassland Coalition

Plan to prioritize the long-term health of your grassland, prepare to cull your herd if necessary.

Preparing for Drought

By this time of year, in March, producers who are experienced in developing and updating grazing plans and drought contingency plans have already reached their first trigger date decision on whether to begin selling livestock. It’s all part of preparing for drought — South Dakota ranchers know better than anyone that the next drought could be right around the corner.

Experienced drought planners have taken stock of expected grass available compared to expected needs of their herd, and are already prepared to cull their herds in the most profitable way, without panic. “The thing we should be looking at as grass managers is economics,” says Pat Guptill, a rancher from Quinn in western South Dakota. “Overgrazing or lack of rest is not economical. Whatever decision you make, make it to protect your pastures. If you overgraze your ground in a dry year, it can take three to five years for that pasture to recover, but if you keep it protected with grass it takes only three to five months after a substantial rain for that grass to recover.”


Mitch Faulkner, an NRCS range management specialist who’s helped many ranchers plan for droughts, thinks it’s really important to look at all possible options and to be prepared. “We’re going to wind up going through droughts from time to time–finding those resources and going through that evaluation process is important.

Find out more about the practical aspects of drought planning and using the SD NRCS drought tool from Mitch Faulkner in this podcast. The South Dakota NRCS drought tool can be downloaded from here.  You can find more drought planning information at the Pray for Rain, Plan for Drought website.


contrast of two pastures - one had been managed to prepare for drought; the other had not

Which side of the fence was prepared for drought? Often overlooked in drought years is what should be the highest priority—doing what is necessary to protect the grassland resource long term.

Photo courtesy Buz Kloot

Join our Mailing list!

Get all latest news & be the first to know about upcoming events.