Weathering Drought

by Don Campbell

There is a large portion of Western Canada where drought is a real concern. In some areas this will be another consecutive year of drought. With these thoughts in mind I would like to offer some suggestions for your consideration. I think that drought management should involve 4 key areas.

  1. Take care of your people.
  2. Tally your assets.
  3. Do a grazing plan.
  4. Adjust your financial plan.

Take Care of Your People

Taking care of your people is the first & most important thing that needs to be addressed in a drought.

Unfortunately this area is seldom talked about & often overlooked.

Every drought in the history of the world has been ended with a rain.

 I suspect that the current drought will end in exactly the same way. If you let the drought destroy your mental health, your marriage or your family you will not be in a position to enjoy & prosper from what lies ahead.

We all know that there is a lot of stress & anxiety associated with a drought. Be vigilant about your health. Take care of yourself. This includes mental, physical, social & spiritual health. 

There is a tendency when we are stressed to withdraw from people. This is not a good tendency. Talk to your spouse, your family & your friends. Visit your neighbors. You will help them while you are also helping yourself.

 Remember challenges shared are halved. Joy shared is doubled.

Mental illness is a disease. It is not a weakness. There should be no stigma attached to mental illness. Mental illness needs to be treated like any other disease. Seek professional help. Talk to your local Doctor. Be prepared to contact the nearest mental health clinic. Phone the farm stress line. Do whatever it takes.

Remember that seeking help is a sign of wisdom & strength.

Each morning when you rise you can say: “Thank goodness we are one day closer to a rain.” Or you can say: “Oh no, another day without rain.”

Both of these statements are true. Neither one will make the rain come any sooner. You have the power to choose either statement. I think choosing the first one will help you maintain a positive attitude. What do you think?

Tally Your Assets.

It makes sense to look at your assets as you enter a challenging time. The following questions may help.

  1. How financially secure are you?
  2. How profitable are you?
  3. Do you have hay land that you could graze?
  4. Do you have crop land that might be seeded for forage?
  5. Is your stocking rate low or high?
  6. Do you have yearlings that can be sold at any time?
  7. Do you have breeding heifers that can be sold at any time?
  8. How healthy is your land?
  9. Are there other questions you consider to be important?

The above questions are unique to each farm. They must be answered on a farm by farm basis. The only person who knows the answer is you.

Now I would like to make a statement that applies to all of us who have taken Holistic Management. Our written goal, our ability to do a grazing plan & a financial plan are priceless assets. Even if you haven’t applied your knowledge that diligently you still have the basic knowledge & wisdom to do a better job. You can start today if you choose to.

Having taken Holistic Management puts YOU IN THE TOP 10% OF PROCUCERS!!! That is a wonderful place to be as you head into challenging times.

Do a Grazing Plan

A grazing plan is vital to help you make wise decisions in a drought situation. Look in the Holistic Management workbook. Follow the steps as they are laid out.

There are 4 principles that may aid you in managing during a drought. 

  1. Combine your herds. This will give you more pastures to utilize & will tend to increase your recovery time. The ideal is to have one herd. How close can you get to the ideal?
  2. Slow down your moves. This will increase your recovery. Slowing your moves will mean you are grazing more severely. You will not be overgrazing as long as you keep your graze period short. 
  3. You may consider supplemental feeding. This is a decision that must be made on a farm by farm basis. If you decide to supplemental feed use this tool to help increase your recovery. This means you might graze a pasture for 4 or 5 days using one day moves then you would feed to gain another day or 2.
  4. Destocking is a decision to consider. Yearlings, dry cows & breeding heifers can be sold at any time. The sooner you sell these cattle the more grass you will free up for the cow herd.

Remember that the sooner you destock the less you will have to destock.

Drawing a line in the sand may be helpful. If it doesn’t rain this much (pick an amount) by this date (pick a date) I will take this action.

Update your financial plan:

A drought can have serious implications on your finances. Plan ahead adjust your plan to see how things will turn out. Use your knowledge & wisdom so that you know what is coming & that you are in control.

I hope you have a good grazing season. I hope you don’t have to go through a drought. If you do you are well equipped to deal with the situation.

If you need help talk to your management club or contact one of the CE’s. God Bless you. Don 

Rain From Nowhere

By: Murray Hartin February 21, 2007

His cattle didn’t get a bid; they were fairly bloody poor, 

What was he going to do?  He couldn’t feed them anymore, 

The dams were all but dry; hay was thirteen bucks a bale, 

Last month’s talk of rain was just a fairytale, 

His credit had run out, no chance to pay what’s owed, 

Bad thoughts ran through his head as he drove down Gully Road

“Geez, great granddad bought the place back in 1898, 

“Now I’m such a useless bastard, I’ll have to shut the gate. 

“Can’t support my wife and kids, not like dad and those before, 

“Christ, Grandma kept it going while Pop fought in the war.” 

With depression now his master, he abandoned what was right, 

There’s no place in life for failures, he’d end it all tonight.

There were still some things to do; he’d have to shoot the cattle first, 

Of all the jobs he’d ever done, that would be the worst. 

He’d have a shower, watch the news, then they’d all sit down for tea 

Read his kids a bedtime story, watch some more TV, 

Kiss his wife goodnight; say he was off to shoot some roos 

Then in a paddock far away he’d blow away the blues. 

But he drove in the gate and stopped – as he always had  

To check the roadside mailbox – and found a letter from his Dad. 

Now his dad was not a writer, Mum did all the cards and mail 

But he knew the style from the notebooks that he used at cattle sales, 

He sensed the nature of its contents, felt moisture in his eyes, 

Just the fact his dad had written was enough to make him cry.

“Son, I know it’s bloody tough, it’s a cruel and twisted game, 

“This life upon the land when you’re screaming out for rain, 

“There’s no candle in the darkness, not a single speck of light 

“But don’t let the demon get you, you have to do what’s right, 

“I don’t know what’s in your head but push the bad thoughts well away 

“See, you’ll always have your family at the back end of the day 

“You have to talk to someone, and yes I know I rarely did 

“But you have to think about Fiona and think about the kids. 

“I’m worried about you son, you haven’t rung for quite a while, 

“I know the road you’re on ’cause I’ve walked every bloody mile. 

“The date?  December 7 back in 1983, 

“Behind the shed I had the shotgun rested in the brigalow tree.  

“See, I’d borrowed way too much to buy the Johnson place

“Then it didn’t rain for years and we got bombed by interest rates, 

“The bank was at the door; I didn’t think I had a choice, 

“I began to squeeze the trigger – that’s when I heard your voice. 

“You said ‘Where are you Daddy?  It’s time to play our game’ 

“‘ I’ve got Squatter all set up, you might get General Rain.’ 

“It really was that close, you’re the one that stopped me son, 

“And you’re the one that taught me there’s no answer in a gun. 

“Just remember people love you, good friends won’t let you down. 

“Look, you might have to swallow pride and get a job in town, 

“Just ’til things come good, son, you’ve always got a choice 

“And when you get this letter ring me, ’cause I’d love to hear your voice.” 

Well he cried and laughed and shook his head then put the truck in gear, 

Shut his eyes and hugged his dad in a vision that was clear, 

Dropped the cattle at the yards, put the truck away 

Filled the troughs the best he could and fed his last ten bales of hay. 

Then he strode towards the homestead, shoulders back and head held high, 

He still knew the road was tough but there was purpose in his eye. 

He called for his wife and children, who’d lived through all his pain, 

Hugs said more than words – he’d come back to them again, 

They talked of silver linings, how good times always follow bad, 

Then he walked towards the phone, picked it up and rang his Dad. 

And while the kids set up the Squatter, he hugged his wife again, 

Then they heard the roll of thunder and they smelt the smell of rain.