Workshop to assist livestock producers dealing with drought

“Developing a Drought Management Plan for the Ranch,” seminar addresses concerns, increased costs and economic strategies to minimize drought impact.

Shelley E. Huguley, Editor

April 1, 2021

Drought conditions persist in many regions of the Southwest, forcing livestock producers to make tough decisions. To reduce risk during and following the drought, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is hosting a webinar, "Developing a Drought Management Plan for the Ranch."

"As of mid-March, about 63% of the state was in some form of drought, D1 or higher," said Extension Economist Justin Benavidez, Amarillo. "About another 20% percent is in abnormally dry conditions. The drought has spread from South Texas up to the entire western half of the state. And now, even some of our more rainy eastern parts of the state are facing drought.

"So, this is a severe problem."

As a result, Benavidez said producers will face culling decisions, along with increased feed and management costs. "Those are the concerns we hope to help mitigate with the information in this series of webinars," he said.

The virtual webinar is four two-hour sessions that will take place on April 13, 15, 20 and 22, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Speakers and topics include:

  • April 13 – Drought Risk Management Programs, Benavidez.

  • April 15 – Nutrition and Management Strategies for Drought Resilience, Jason Smith, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, Amarillo.

  • April 20 – Drought's Impact on Rangeland Plant Communities and Wildfire Checklist/Recovery, Morgan Treadwell, AgriLife Extension range specialist, San Angelo.

  • April 22 – Economic Management Strategies to Minimize Drought Impact, Pancho Abello, AgriLife Extension economist, Vernon.

"I'm going to talk about management strategies we can use before, during, and after the drought that will help minimize the economic impact of the drought," Abello said. "We know a drought will definitely have a negative economic impact.  On this presentation we are going to integrate the different management practices previolsy presented, and analyse what is the economic impact of those in our ranch operation. "

See, Drought worsens, limited irrigation expected for parts of Texas

When developing a risk reduction plan, Abello said long-term and short-term strategies are essential. Common questions he receives from livestock producers include:

  • How do I prepare for drought?

  • What are the economics of destocking or depopulating my herd?

  • After the drought, if there is ample forage, what is the most economical way to restock my herd?

"We will be dealing with the economic impact of all these management strategies so that we can better manage feeding, culling, early weaning, hay purchases, feed purchases, and restocking strategies," Abello said.

Most valuable information

Of all the information presented throughout the four seminars, Benavidez said the most valuable will be the conversations at the end of each presentation.

"We understand the limitations of economists whenever we approach some of these problems because we can sit down and model different potential outcomes. But we will have an interdisciplinary approach with two premiere animal science and rangeland faculty who will poke holes in our strategy at the end of each session.

See photo gallery, Load'em up: From pasture to feedyard

"We're going to have them sit down and say, 'Absolutely the numbers work out, but here are some implicit costs that are hard to model that you should consider as well.' So, what is the nutritional load that is going to be required and did Pancho and I address that? If we didn't, 'Make sure that you consider that in your planning.'

"So, the interdisciplinary approach is going to be the most valuable, not only for our attendees but for Pancho and me, as well."

Pancho agreed. "I think integrating all these disciplines is a great asset of this program."

The seminar requires registration and a one-time fee of $50. Attendees will receive three Texas Department of Agriculture pesticide applicator continuing education units. To register or for more information, visit

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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