Monday Extension Report – April 20, 1015

April 20, 2015

Trigger dates help match stocking rate to forage production

The rain last week was definitely welcome. That rain, combined with warmer than normal soil temperatures should give the cool season grass production a big boost. Of course not everybody got rain so we all hope that more is on the way.

I’m curious to see tomorrow’s drought monitor. Last week’s showed all the listening area except the western 1/3 of Cherry County as abnormally dry, or moderate drought.

Ranchers all have a close eye on the rain gauge this time of year. The amount of grass that grows in the Sandhills during the summer is closely tied to the amount of moisture that gets into the ground during April, May, and June.

Ranchers should all have drought contingency plans that they update each year that help them know when and what they will do if rain does not occur. Many of those drought plans include trigger dates. Trigger dates are dates when a rancher plans to take action if it is dry. April 1 and April 15 are common first trigger dates.

Here’s and example of how trigger dates might be included in a drought plan.

-If on April 15, year-to-date precipitation is less than 75% of long-term average, summer stocking rate will be reduced by 10%.

The good thing about trigger dates is they keep us from falling into the trap of “it’s going to rain, it’s going to rain.” And all of a sudden we wake up to the fact that it didn’t rain. The grass didn’t grow. Now we’re overstocked. We have to figure out how to get out of a mess we made for ourselves by not taking action when we first realized that grass was going to be short because it was dry.

That’s why we’re all on edge about the rain this time of year. April, May and June rainfall pretty much make or break forage production for the whole year.

90% Chance our last freeze date is still to come

On another note, a lot of people are talking about planting things. I want to caution you not to get in too big a hurry, even though it has been warm. Our average last freeze date is the second week of May. In fact 90% of the time our last freeze comes after right now. We usually get at least one freeze in May. Even in 2012 when everything leafed out in March, it froze in May.

Plant if you want, this could be that 1 out of 10 year that last night was our last freeze. But you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Plus, I didn’t say don’t get everything ready. The nice weather should have given you lots of time to get more spring work done than usual.

As always, you can call the extension office at 402-376-1850 for more information.


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