From the Ground Up: Forage Recovery From The 2011 Drought

The 2011 drought devastated pastures and hayfields and resulted in the biggest liquidation of cattle herds the state had ever seen. With 2012 behind us and half of 2013 gone, local ranchers have begun to see some recovery in their pastures and hay fields. Bobby Kurten is a cow/calf operator, and said that pastures have come back sooner than expected.

“The grass rebounded surprisingly well from the drought. We had bare ground after the 2011 drought and it’s covered with grass now. We had a good season in 2012 and a good season in 2013. The soil and the grass rebounded tremendously.”

Mike Kristynik is a rancher and hay producer.

“The grass was really growing, made a really good first cutting of hay, but now it’s turned off dry again and so we’ve kind of come to a screeching halt on our forage production, but we do have a lot of grass out there right now.”

Bobby Kurten says most agricultural producers understand that the timeliness of rain is more important than the amount.

“If we can get the rain at the right time we can grow grass, we can grow crops. That I think happened this year for the spring grasses.”

More rain would green up the grass currently in pastures.

“That failing, hopefully we’ll have enough grass stockpiled to get us through. Our cow numbers are down a lot. Our stocking rate is down, so that maybe the grass will hold up.”

The question now is when will the beef cattle herds begin to be rebuilt? Kristynik believes it will begin slowly.

“I think we might see some folks retaining heifers or buying some replacements and gradually recover. Last year we were able to carry over some hay that we did not need in 2012.”

Cullen Mancuso agrees.

“It’s just going to take time. We’re probably looking at least a five year or longer process before we’ll get the numbers back that we had prior to 2011.”

Kurten says the weather will dictate the speed of the recovery.

“I think the true cattle people will rebuild the herd. How fast they will rebuild their herd will depend on economic conditions and how confident they are in continued rain.”

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