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Memo Date: March 24, 2014 To: Dr.

Ladd From: Jesse Ward Subject: Preparing for drought conditions on a cattle ranch in Texas I have attached a copy of my report on Preparing for a drought condition on a cattle ranch in Texas. I completed the task described in my proposal 24 March 2014: Proposal preparing for drought conditions on a cattle ranch. I first started my research into drought condition by first understanding the implication that drought brings to a cattle ranch. After I came to an understanding of what happens in the drought. I started to research how to prepare the cattle for the drought. This information was helpful in understanding the animal related needs during the drought. After this was complete I focused my attention on the preparation leading up to drought conditions and need during the drought. Based on my research I recommend a combined approach of rotational grazing to alleviate stress on pasture land. Securing feed source such as hay in a barn or by wrapping the hay to prevent loss to weather. Wean calves earlier if drought conditions are expected. Also to secure water sources such as stock tanks and wells, by digging out tanks or digging new wells and tanks if resources allow it. I appreciate the opportunity to research for preparing for drought condition on a cattle ranch in Texas. I look forward to working on future projects for you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions, at jesse.ward@go.tarleton.edu.

Preparing for drought conditions on a cattle ranch in Texas


3/24/2014 Prepared for: Dr. Ladd Prepared by: Jesse Ward

Table of Contents

Executive Summary.........................................................................................................................1 Introduction2 Research Methods...................3 Results..4 Conclusions.....6 Recommendation7 References8

List of Illustrations Figures Rotational grazing diagram5

Executive summary Cattle ranching is an integral part of the economy to Texas. It is also the number one agriculture product in the state, also produces more cattle than any other state. Making cattle a vital part to not only the states economy, but the economy of the United States when a drought impacts the state it affects not only the ranchers in the state but everyone in the country. When it comes to drought there is no golden rule for how to prepare for it. Each ranch is a different piece of land meaning that different techniques can be used to help a rancher better prepare for a drought. Also given that Texas has huge land mass means the climate varies significantly across the state form desert like conditions far west to swap lands in the east. I researched various governmental and academic resources, along with my interviews with a few ranchers in the central Texas area about drought preparation. I have come to a conclusion on what I think could be the best preparation plan for a large number of ranchers in Texas. From what I have learned I would recommend. A multi-step plan for the management of land and resources to help prepare and survive the drought. To start securing good water source is key in the preparation for the drought. This step can be achieved by digging out stock tanks to hold more water during the wet season, digging new tanks or wells, and running water lines from viable sources of water to water troughs in pastures so that stay full. Next would be food storage and production. When it comes to storing hay making sure it is protected from the weather is most important. Barns are an effective way to protect hay but are costly to construct, an alternative is a hay wrapping system that protects hay by covering it in a plastic wrap to prevent loss. Reason for protecting hay is to prevent loss due to spoilage and the environment and the hay keeps more nutritional content when stored correctly. Rotational grazing will alleviate the stress on pasture and increase production of grasses and other forage. Also if drought conditions are expected to impact a cattle operation weaning calves earlier will alleviate some of the stress on the mother cow and make it easier for her to gain weight and make it through the drought successfully with little loss.

Introduction Cattle ranching is an integral part of the teas and United Sates economy. One of the toughest conditions these ranches face is the frequent droughts that plague the Texas landscape. The purpose of this report is to identify way in which a producer can prepare for drought conditions in Texas. I researched different ways that if implemented will make a ranch better prepared for the drought and hopefully survive these conditions with minimal loss. Along with research I interviewed a few cattle producers in the central Texas area on their methods of drought preparation. The problem with preparing for a drought is that is unpredictable. The environment Texas is not always consistent making preparing for specific weather conditions difficult. This being said here in Texas we face most summer not expecting much in the way of rain fall or cool days. Knowing this preparing for drought conditions is an ongoing mission to survive the long hot summer days. With my research I found that the economic impact can be extremely high take the estimated $569 million from November 2008 until March 1, 2009. If you and in the losses form 2008 are added to those this winter, the total loss is $829 million (The Cattleman 2009). These numbers are huge if the produces can be better prepared for drought conditions they could hopefully see these numbers fall by hundreds of millions. Although it would take a large investment on the produces part the end result would save them money in the years falling the initial investment. Through the research databases and government agencies such as the NRCS and interviews here are the areas that I will focus on in my report on Drought preparation Water sources Feed storage/production Pasture rotation Early weaning

Research Methods 1. To start my research I found agricultural journals with articles concerning drought conditions and how to manage the drought conditions TEXAS DROUGHT ECONOMIC IMPACT MORE THAN $550 MILLION (the cattleman), DROUGHT: Deep In The Heart Of Texas (little field 2009), Preparing for drought grazing (weiland). Using these sources I found that a combination approach to drought preparation is the best method to use on cattle ranches. 2. The research led me to the best methods of preparing for a drought a. Viable sources of water for the cattle to use this can be form stock tanks that exist or new ones that are built. Well water for the troughs this can be supplied at the site of trough or by building irrigation lines to run for site of well to the trough. b. Feed storage/production. Hay is the most common source of feed for cattle when the grass cannot support the herd. Produce hay by leasing land for the sole purpose of growing hay, or on existing land that is not in production of cattle. Storing the hay is the important part either by wrapping hay or in a barn to reduce spoilage and maintain nutrient content. c. Pasture rotation is a critical step in the management process. This is the act of moving livestock form pasture to pasture for short durations to not deplete grasses or even kill the grass taking it longer to recover and reproduce. d. Early weaning of calves this is used to take the stress off the mother so her body does not have to work so hard to produce milk. Weaning a few weeks early to months does not hurt the calf as it is already acquiring most of its nutrients from outside sources other than its mother. 3. I interviewed local cattle producer around my area in Waco, TX and Hamilton, TX. These producers gave me valuable insight into their operations and how they are preparing for droughts this summer. By stock piling hay in there pole barns is the first step. Both have stated weaning calves. We also discussed various plans on improvements to their operation that they plan on doing in the upcoming year. 4. After all this information was collected I came upon my conclusions for what to do. When preparing for a drought on a ranch.

Results In this section I will present the results from my research. I will cover various methods to which better prepare for a drought in central Texas. Also the importance of drought preparation. Extent of the problem: With my research I found that the economic impact can be extremely high take the estimated $569 million from November 2008 until March 1, 2009. If you and in the losses form 2008 are added to those this winter, the total loss is $829 million (The Cattleman 2009). These numbers are huge if the produces can be better prepared for drought conditions they could hopefully see these numbers fall by hundreds of millions. These are huge number especially when Texas is the largest producer of cattle in the United States. How to prepare Viable sources of water for the cattle to use this can be form stock tanks that exist or new ones that are built. Well water for the troughs this can be supplied at the site of trough or by building irrigation lines to run for site of well to the trough. Feed storage/production. Hay is the most common source of feed for cattle when the grass cannot support the herd. Produce hay by leasing land for the sole purpose of growing hay, or on existing land that is not in production of cattle. Storing the hay is the important part either by wrapping hay or in a barn to reduce spoilage and maintain nutrient content. Pasture rotation is a critical step in the management process. This is the act of moving livestock form pasture to pasture for short durations to not deplete grasses or even kill the grass taking it longer to recover and reproduce. Early weaning of calves this is used to take the stress off the mother so her body does not have to work so hard to produce milk. Weaning a few weeks early to months does not hurt the calf as it is already acquiring most of its nutrients from outside sources other than its mother. Below I have listed a diagram (rotational grazing) on what the setup of a ranch might look like if it implemented all the changes listed.

Improvements Some of the improvements seen are the wells and the centralized trough. This is used so even if the tanks go dry there is a reliable water source in which the cattle can drink form. With all the fences dividing the pasture it makes for an easier time weaning the calves as they can be more easily separated from the mother allowing for a quicker wean time. The key factor is the rotational grazing as you can see the pastures are labeled (1, 2, 3) this is to identify the movement form one to the other. During serious drought conditions the time stock are left on one particular pasture should be limited so the grass can recover

Conclusions

Cattle ranching is an integral part of the economy to Texas. It is also the number one agriculture product in the state, also produces more cattle than any other state. Making cattle a vital part to not only the states economy, but the economy of the United States when a drought impacts the state it affects not only the ranchers in the state but everyone in the country. When it comes to drought there is no golden rule for how to prepare for it. From what I have learned I would recommend. A multi-step plan for the management of land and resources to help prepare and survive the drought. To start securing good water source is key in the preparation for the drought. This step can be achieved by digging out stock tanks to hold more water during the wet season, digging new tanks or wells, and running water lines from viable sources of water to water troughs in pastures so that stay full. Next would be food storage and production. When it comes to storing hay making sure it is protected from the weather is most important. Barns are an effective way to protect hay but are costly to construct, an alternative is a hay wrapping system that protects hay by covering it in a plastic wrap to prevent loss. Reason for protecting hay is to prevent loss due to spoilage and the environment and the hay keeps more nutritional content when stored correctly. Rotational grazing will alleviate the stress on pasture and increase production of grasses and other forage. Also if drought conditions are expected to impact a cattle operation weaning calves earlier will alleviate some of the stress on the mother cow and make it easier for her to gain weight and make it through the drought successfully with little loss.

Recommendation

I first started my research into drought condition by first understanding the implication that drought brings to a cattle ranch. After I came to an understanding of what happens in the drought. I started to research how to prepare the cattle for the drought. This information was helpful in understanding the animal related needs during the drought. After this was complete I focused my attention on the preparation leading up to drought conditions and need during the drought. Based on my research I recommend a combined approach of rotational grazing to alleviate stress on pasture land. Securing feed source such as hay in a barn or by wrapping the hay to prevent loss to weather. Wean calves earlier if drought conditions are expected. Also to secure water sources such as stock tanks and wells, by digging out tanks or digging new wells and tanks if resources allow it. I appreciate the opportunity to research for preparing for drought condition on a cattle ranch in Texas. I look forward to working on future projects for you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions, at jesse.ward@go.tarleton.edu.

References

TEXAS DROUGHT ECONOMIC IMPACT MORE THAN $550 MILLION. (2009). TheCattleman, 95(12), 65. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/203129522?accountid=7078

Littlefield, D. A. (2009). DROUGHT: Deep in the heart of texas. Beef, 46(2), 26-n/a. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/228212345?accountid=7078

Wieland, D. (2000). Preparing for drought grazing. Beef, 36(10), 17. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/228243031?accountid=7078

Texas A&M AgriLife communications; healing native rangeland may require combination of burning and rotational grazing. (2010). Agriculture Week, , 68. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/197348635?accountid=7078