Lessons of a drought

Understanding Average Pasture Cover (APC)
November 27, 2019
Milking system issues
February 17, 2020

2019 was a “bruising” year due to a drought that has to be one of the worst ever. What made it even worse was that it was on the back of four years of below average rainfall.

What’s changed and how are we going to manage these droughts going forward?


There is no doubt in my mind that the much talked about “climate change” has affected our weather patterns. Our rains are now unreliable and the seasons we all referred to are upside down. We can seemingly no longer depend on rains in our so called “rainy season”.


In many ways “change” is a good thing, but not when it comes to climate change. We are going to have to start thinking outside the box as to how we are going to manage our new environment.


What lessons did we learn?

  1. First and foremost; if you are having to buy in roughage for any length of time, you’re in trouble. Make sure that you have a fodder bank that can sustain your cows. Rather feed poorer quality home grown feed than have to buy in expensive roughage.
  2. If you have to buy in roughage, make sure it’s good quality and that it’s for productive cows only. If you are buying roughage for dry cows and heifers then you are in BIG trouble.
  3. Manage your stocking rate according to available and/or affordable feed. If you are over stocked move the unproductive animals as fast as possible. This will help you stretch the feed you have.
  4. A drought is a good time to rid yourself of problem cows. When food is limited, your herd cannot afford to carry passengers. 
  5. It’s also a good time to cut out those “nice to have” costs that tend to creep in during good times. There is no good saving on roughage while having a bloated cost structure.
  6. Manage what you have and don’t waste. Make sure the feed is going to the correct animals.
  7. Make notes of lessons learned because it will rain again and it will get dry again. It’s easy farming when you have lots of green grass as you’re spoilt for choice, that’s not the case in a drought.
  8. Make sure you learn so that you can make pro-active decisions when it gets dry rather than re-active ones.


Nobody likes droughts but they do teach us very good lessons.


So what did you learn and what changes are you doing to ensure that your farm manages our changing environment?


Written by: Edgar  Brotherton