Rangeland management during drought

Are You Ready for the Next Drought?

Although we don't know what the future holds, we can be certain there will be droughts and livestock producers will be faced with the painful dilemma of reducing stocking rates (grazing pressure) or damaging their rangeland.

This DROUGHT CHECKLIST examines some of the measures you might consider to reduce the impacts of drought on your livestock operation and the range resource, and hasten recovery when the drought is over.

Effects of Drought on Rangeland

Effects of Drought on Livestock

Reduced forage yields during drought will mean a declining plane of nutrition for cows and calves. This will have significant adverse effects on livestock production including the following:

Range Management During Drought

During drought conditions then, the goals for the manager are to minimize damage to the range and stay in business. Heavy to moderate use of rangeland during drought reduces the production and profit potential for future years. The following practices present a variety of different options that we have seen practised by farmers and ranchers during drought conditions in the past decade. Some of these may be appropriate recommendations for your circumstances:

Native Rangeland:

Cropland and Tame Pasture:

Water, Salt, Supplements and Feed:

Managing Before and After a Drought

Once the drought has ended, range managers must give the rangeland a chance to recover so grass production can return to normal and build to the highest level of range condition possible. Proper management after the drought has ended will provide long-term benefits to your livestock operation and provide for a stable forage supply.

Good long-term management means managing for the dry years. This will benefit the range, improve productivity, and provide a more stable, reliable forage supply.


Lacey, J. 1988. Tips for dealing with drought on range. Montana State University - Extension Service. 2 pp.

Willms, W.D., S. Smoliak and A.W. Bailey. 1986. Herbage production following litter removal on Alberta native grasslands. Journal of Range Management 39(6):536-539.

Willms, W.D., S.M. McGinn and J.F. Dormaar. 1993. Influence of litter on herbage production in the mixed prairie. J. Range Manage. 46:320-324.

USDA. 1982. Are you ready for the next drought? Soil Conservation Service Publication, Bozeman, Montana. 12 pp.

Most of the information for this checklist was adapted from an article written by Barry W. Adams, Public Lands Branch - Southern Region, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Range Note #14, 1992). This Range Note was abridged by Chris Nykoluk, Range Management Section, PFRA, Regina. For more information, please call your local Range Management Specialist, Extension Agrologist, or PFRA at (306)780-5066.