Conservation helps landowners ‘drought proof’ farms, ranches
Much of the nation is suffering from drought, and reduced streamflow, depleted reservoirs, dry seasons and hot summers are worsening the situation. Though you can’t completely “drought proof” your land, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service can help you make it more resilient.
NRCS works with private landowners to plan and install conservation practices on their farms and ranches, many of which mitigate drought.
These improvements include planting cover crops; using conservation tillage or not tilling; applying the right amount of nutrients at the right time; and rotating livestock among pastures to improve plant health and quantity and quality of feed for livestock. NRCS also provides financial and technical assistance for conservation practices that make irrigating crops and providing water to livestock more efficient, such as wells, pipelines and watering facilities.
NRCS provided more than $27.2 million in financial assistance last year to farmers and ranchers in 22 states to mitigate the effects of drought by employing conservation practices on more than one million acres.
Through these proactive conservation efforts, some landowners like the Little Horse Ranch in Arizona continue to flourish despite drought. This 65,000-acre ranch has worked with NRCS for nearly 15 years, and they’re watching the herd expand.
“The ranch was able to grow during the drought,” ranch manager Pat Browning said. “We expanded from a herd of 400 to a herd of 650, and we are working to grow to 725 head next year.”
This wouldn’t have been possible if grazing and water management practices hadn’t been placed throughout the ranch, he said.
By installing pipelines and water troughs, the ranch added 16,000 acres of rangeland that wasn’t usable prior to installation. Both of the ranch’s storage tanks are operated by solar pumps often creating an influx of water. This influx spurred a voluntary riparian habitat, which provides a home for birds and other native wildlife as well as a cool and shady place for the cattle.
To learn how you can fortify your land against drought, visit your local NRCS office or website for information on how to make your land more resilient to drought and other extreme weathers.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the Nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.
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