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Plant Science Department

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ranch management, drought, South Dakota weather, climate, rainfall


Data on a hypothetical, but typical, ranch in northcentral South Dakota and three different 10-year weather patterns were fed into a computer to find the best profit options a rancher can take during drought. A diversified land use program with small grain and alfalfa combined with a diversified livestock program was more profitable over a 10-year period than a specialized program with pasture and beef production. This was true under all weather conditions. Irrespective of the land use program it was profitable to reduce or eliminate the beef cow herd during periods of drought. There must be favorable price relationships to pay the above-normal forage costs to keep the cow herd through drought. In years of normal rainfall, this beef cow herd was maintained between 175 and 200 head. Supplementary hog activities were selected at their maximum allowable scale under all weather conditions. Greater amounts of capital borrowing were required to survive a drought when supplementary livestock activities were not permitted or when a specialized pasture production program was employed. Following a 3-year drought it took 2-3 years to recover an annual cash balance which was greater than zero. A drought of the severity assumed in this study (no crops or hay at all in the third year) resulted in $67,346 less profit over a 10-year period for a diversified crop and livestock program compared to a similar period with no drought. A polyperiod linear programming model was used to analyze the effect of the three management strategies: (1) a beef cow herd with crop and pasture production, (2) beef cows with crop and pasture production plus hogs and sheep as supplementary operations, and (3) beef cows with supplementary hog and sheep operations and all land in pasture production. The three weather conditions were (1) a 10-year period with no drought, (2) a 10-year period with drought in the first 3 years and (3) a 10-year period with drought in the fourth, fifth, and sixth years. Government assistance during drought was assumed to be available.










Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota State University, Brookings