Once again, beef producers are being faced with a serious summer drought that has dried-up pastures across much of the region. 

There are many short-term issues that must be addressed, such as nitrate toxicity, whether to sow any annuals this fall and marketing some animals to reduce herd size. 

One long-term issue that will still need to be faced even after rain starts falling consistently, is how to handle weakened or lost forages. 

Before you start to replant any pastures, give some thought to how you might use this opportunity to improve your ability to withstand future droughts.



The first question you may want to ask yourself is how did my pasture wind up in this condition? It may have been in poor shape going into the drought due to past management, but it also might be that you are asking a cool-season pasture (tall fescue or orchardgrass) to do something for which it is not well-suited.



Cool-season pastures are an essential part of our forage systems, but they will not produce well in hot weather and especially not in hot, dry weather. 

Over-reliance on cool-season pastures in warm weather can lead to further weakening of stands and perhaps a complete loss of the grass. 

If your drought-stricken pasture is on a poor site with thin or coarse-textured soils, cool-season grasses may have been a poor match to the site and are not a good choice for reseeding.



Instead of simply going back to cool-season grasses, consider using a drought-tolerant grass in any pasture you reseed. By using drought-tolerant forages, you can reduce the likelihood that you will have to feed hay in future summers and that you will have to re-establish the same pasture again in just a few years.



Here are a few key points to consider as you evaluate reseeding options:



Think perennials! The best tool for dealing with summer droughts is to establish a perennial, summer grass. Perennials do not have the annual expense of reseeding or the risk of establishment failure each year.