One of the things I love about ranchers is that they’re optimistic by nature. Of course, you have to be, when two of the biggest drivers of one’s profitability are largely, if not entirely, out of their control – markets and weather. Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t like to talk a whole lot about both of them.
So, I guess it was fitting that university specialists this week began putting out articles for producers to help them prepare for drought. In some areas, moisture conditions are 50% or more below normal. The talk is about delaying turnout, and making plans in case the rains don’t materialize.
Ironically, in most of the areas where the drought is either beginning or continuing, there is no surplus feed. Cattle are being turned out early because exceedingly warm temperatures have started the growing season and producers have few other options.
That’s why drought management is such a misnomer. By its very nature, you are forced to act on faith that the rains will come, and plan for the eventualities if they don’t.
Still, grass availability is tough, and one can’t afford to rent excess grass just in case. Contingency plans can’t be really made until conditions dictate that they are actionable. So, you wait, you lay the groundwork, and you go on faith.
Even at today’s prices, margins are tight; thus, maintaining excess capacity as a buffer isn’t a viable option. So, you begin to lay out contingency plans, while watching the sky, but stopping occasionally to bow your head, pray for rain, and work to act in time to prevent too much hardship if it doesn’t.