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January 25, 2013

Drought-stressed pasture meeting set in Norman

NORMAN — Livestock producers have endured the worst two years in the history of many of their operations. In fact, many ranchers I work with who did not sell their entire herds are speculating as to how much longer they can afford to feed their remaining animals.

Pasture and rangeland conditions are the worst I have ever seen, and this trend looks to continue into the spring.

While we can always hope for the best, we must plan for the worst. While many believe it cannot get any worse, others reason the worst is yet to come. I agree with the latter because the longer our soils dry, the more grasses will suffer and die.

With limited to no palatable forage available, producers are forced to feed their herds everything they eat. When this takes place, the financial strains can be unbearable.  

Forecasts from the National Weather Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predict that lower than normal rainfall will continue through spring. Therefore, it’s safe to say the drought-stressed landscape we’ve experienced since 2011 will continue for at least several more months.

In fact, the term “drought-stressed” is an understatement when describing most parts of our state, including pastures and rangeland. Due to this, cattle producers must make sound management decisions regarding stocking rates, forage use and availability.

Oklahoma State University Extension will host a meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 in the Extension office classroom at 601 E. Robinson St. in Norman. Guest speaker Mark Gregory, area agronomist for Oklahoma State University Extension, will discuss the “Recovery and Management of Drought-Stressed Pastures.”

This meeting is free to the public, but you must RSVP to Cherry Slaughter by Feb. 18 by calling 321-4774 or emailing her at cherry.slaughter@okstate.edu.

If you plan to own horses or cattle this year, I recommend taking one hour to attend this workshop. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension and Oklahoma State University offer their programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or status as a veteran and are Equal Opportunity Employers.

Heath Herje is an agriculture educator with Cleveland County Cooperative Extension service.

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