As the ongoing dry spell continues over a wide area. The question of ‘How much rain does it take to be effective?’ becomes an even more relative issue than during higher rainfall periods. The answer lies within numerous ‘What ifs?’ most of which the rangeland manager has no control over. Humidity, wind, cloud cover, temperature and length of time until the next rain event are all things that the manager has no control over and can’t do anything to change. But the most important of all variables that the manager does have control over are the health of the plants on the ground, the density of those plants and the amount of litter covering the ground. (Litter being, dead plant material that has fallen on the soil and is in a state of decay.)
Some managers would say ‘It is dry and has been for a long time, there is no way I can improve on those things.’ Preparation for the ongoing drought began during the last good growing conditions and continues even during the dry spell, by proper grazing rate and giving adequate recovery time for those plants by removing the animals from the pasture for predetermined periods of time. This preparation does not happen by chance alone, it takes planning and diligence of initiation. Then replanning after observing livestock, plant recovery, economic conditions, and rainfall, this is called ‘proper grazing management’. When this ‘plan’ is put in place density of cover -over time- will approach 100% coverage, healthy root systems provide healthy soils that retain moisture and ground litter covers the soil lessoning the evaporation rate caused by all of those variables that the manager has no control over.
The current drought is hurting good managers and poor managers alike. Those that have prepared for current conditions are faring much better than others, even to the point of growing a little forage where good ground cover-healthy soils are prevalent.
THE BETTER IT GETS, THE FASTER IT GETS BETTER
Take note that this photo is along a formerly erosive creek bank. Recovery of creek areas is one of the first places an effective grazing program influences.