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Plan now to make forage last

The drought may have caught a lot of cattle producers off-guard this last year, but with most outlooks favoring a continuation of the dry conditions, there are no excuses to be ill-prepared heading into 2013. So start planning now, one livestock expert says.

That all starts with evaluating how much pasture stand -- regardless of how thin -- you have heading into winter, says University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson. That examination's not likely to turn up very good results, but you'll need to have a clear picture of forage needs heading into next spring, nonetheless.

"Most pastures were grazed more heavily last year than usual," Anderson says in a university report. "They have almost no forage remaining for use next year and most root systems were weakened going into winter."

Even if you do receive ample winter moisture and have good rain in the spring, don't count on a suddenly average or above-average forage stand just yet, Anderson warns. Stands will likely remain thinner than normal, meaning producers should probably count on grazing other forages, like cornstalks, to meet forage needs from now through next spring and summer.

"I suggest you take a realistic look at your livestock forage program," Anderson says. "If it stays dry, can you afford to keep doing what you have been doing?"

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