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Making Good Destocking Decisions in Drought

By   /  August 1, 2016  /  3 Comments

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Cattle in Boulder County, Colorado in 2012 What do you do if it doesn’t rain so the grass does
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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.


  1. Craig Carter says:

    I learned a long time ago the never have more than 60% of my herd in cows and their progeny, with the balance as traders. As it dries, not uncommon in Australia, get rid of the traders first, then follow Greg’s formula, always remembering to match your stocking rate to your decreasing crrying capacity.

    When it comes time to restock, remember it doesn’t rain grass, this winter we had 2 inches in May but nothing even started to grow until a further good rain event in June. The market will react sharply at first and by the time it has settled you will find that replacement stock are better value.

  2. Chip Hines says:

    Drought will hit everyone in the cattle business, sooner or later. In some areas drought is only a year long. In other areas it can be multiple years.

    A good friend in the latter has developed a program that will keep more females during drought. With the loss of forage growth, the first to go are big cows. They eat too much. Second are steers. They are expendable. Third are the mature cows, they eat too much. Depending on severity of drought, this can be spread out over a couple years.

    He keeps two and three year old heifers and all heifer calves. They do not eat as much and if the genetics of the herd are improving, these are the prime cattle to save. Another reason to sell steers and keep heifers is because a steer only grows. A heifer gives you a calf as she grows. She gains in value, while eating less than a cow who may be decreasing in value as she ages.

    Two heifers can be run on the forage of one cow. This helps to keep numbers up for when the rains come back.

  3. Greg Judy says:

    When you get in a drought, treat every blade of grass on your farm like it is your last. The sooner you de-stock the bottom lower quality animals from your herd, the less animals you may have to sell. One big mistake that I see folks make is they try and feed purchased hay through a drought. This is a recipe for financial disaster, you may end up with more money in your livestock than what they are worth. You simply do not know when the drought is going to end.
    Another mistake folks make is to open the gates and let them have the whole farm, now your really in trouble. Your whole farm has been overgrazed, recovery will be very slow when the rains return.

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