Drought workshop to be held Jan. 23 in Kirk, Colo. | TheFencePost.com
Don Schoderbek and Julie Elliott

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Drought workshop to be held Jan. 23 in Kirk, Colo.

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As the days get shorter, and winter begins to settle in, many ranchers and stockmen in Eastern Colorado are sitting down in front of their barrel stove with pen, paper and a beverage of their choice. Winter is often a time of planning. The current agricultural financial outlook provides a source of concern to many producers. However, there is also the threat of a looming drought. This presents a two-fold challenge to ranchers. Abnormally low forage production on the range can compound existing economic problems. It is important to understand the importance of the range resource, and how to best utilize it to support your operation through dry, tough times.

Supported by Ron Richards and the Yuma County Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and CSU — Extension will be offering a free workshop entitled "Thinking About Drought." This event will take place on Jan. 23, 2017, at the Kirk Lions Hall in Kirk, Colo. In the morning, we will discuss a variety of topics related to drought on rangelands. Following a cowboy beef lunch, we will travel to a local ranch for demonstration of drought evaluation techniques, as well as various range management and monitoring practices.

The ultimate source of income on a ranching operation is your forage base. Range plants convert sunlight, CO2, and water into food for livestock as a byproduct of their life cycle. Taking advantage of this relationship is critical to livestock operations. Drought has a substantial impact on your rangeland plants. The largest effect is that there is less of them. This means that the remaining plants are of vital importance. Don Schoderbek, CSU extension range specialist, will speak about how plants work, why timing leaf removal (defoliation) is important, and the decisive determinant of drought and rangeland survival — plant roots.

Roy Roath, CSU emeritus professor and extension range specialist (retired), brings to bear several decades of understanding and experience on Colorado's rangelands. He will speak about the importance of water management in drought environments. Water impacts every aspect of livestock production on rangelands — from the soil, through the plant and into the animal. During drought times, this is especially true. Sound water management can make or break your ranch in drought times, and Roath is intimately familiar with this complex issue. Folks who remember Roath's programs from the 80s and 90s won't want to miss this one.

In the afternoon, the group will travel to a nearby ranch to learn how to evaluate the impact of drought. The key to surviving a drought is balancing forage availability with forage demand by livestock. In a drought, there are fewer plants on the land, and the remaining plants are less vigorous. Julie Elliott, USDA-NRCS range management specialist, will demonstrate what this process looks like on the land — from the scale of the individual plant and roots, up to the whole pasture. If the weather is bad, we will have an indoor work session on developing a drought plan for your ranch.

To register, contact the Yuma County Conservation District at (970) 332-3173 ext. 3, or via email at yccd77@gmail.com by Jan. 19.❖