New website walks ranchers through drought planning |

New website walks ranchers through drought planning

Kelly Helm Smith
National Drought Mitigation Center

Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch is a new website from the National Drought Mitigation Center to help livestock producers develop drought plans.

The NDMC developed the site in collaboration with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension researchers Pat Reece (now owner of Prairie and Montane Enterprises), Jerry Volesky and Matt Stockton. The NDMC also consulted with ranchers, federal grazing experts and other researchers from UNL, South Dakota State University, and Texas A&M University. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency.

“There’s a lot of information out there for livestock and forage producers on how to mitigate and respond to drought,” said Cody Knutson, the NDMC researcher who led the project. “This brings it all together in one spot so ranchers can learn what to do before, during and after a drought.”

“A lot of people will say ranchers should have a plan for drought, without a framework of what that should be,” said Tonya Haigh, an NDMC researcher who helped assemble the site. “Now we’re giving them a framework. The website also conveys how and why the different pieces of the plan are so important, and how planning during non-drought years can lead to fewer impacts during drought years.”

The website is designed to take users through the steps of developing a ranch drought plan: assembling a planning team, identifying goals and objectives, inventorying resources, setting critical dates, developing a monitoring system, identifying strategies for preparing for and managing through drought, and implementing and evaluating the plan. Each step includes links to resources, tools and worksheets.

The “Inventory and Monitor,” “Before Drought,” “During Drought” and “After Drought” sections provide in-depth information and resources that will help users develop a drought plan.

In addition, the site includes a “Drought Basics” section, which provides in-depth information on climate and historical drought occurrence; the effects drought has on livestock, grasses and grazing management; geographic variability in precipitation and forage growth; and drought-related financial considerations.

In the “Overview” section, users also can find links to tools and current drought and weather conditions, and resources for use in presentations and other outreach.

Featured on the main page are descriptions of drought plans by rangeland managers from across the Great Plains.

Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch is online:

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