The Montana Ewe & Ram Sale in Miles City not only offers sheep producers some of the highest quality sheep genetics in the world but also an opportunity for producer education. And this year one of the topics was fall grazing during a drought and what producers should and shouldn’t do.
“We're in a drought condition right now so what we’ve really focused on and a lot of the questions I've been getting is how hard we can graze this country before we really need to start dry lotting,” said Montana State University Extension Sheep Specialist Brent Roeder.
He says ranchers should be aware of important trigger points when making grazing decisions.
“Once on dormant grass and you hit that 70 to 80 percent utilization or graze it down to about a two-inch stubble height, you really need to be thinking about just going ahead and putting those sheep or cattle in in a dry lot situation and feeding them if you can afford to,” said Roeder.
The ongoing drought has taken its toll on livestock pastures and water forcing a lot of ranchers to make some tough management decisions. But even in these challenging times, sheep are providing ranchers with at least a few options.
“Sheep do pretty well,” said Roeder. “Part of the issue they're running on to out here in eastern Montana is just the lack of water. A lot of pits are dry, a lot of creeks have dried up, and so sheep tend to winter a little better on snow and make it a little better utilization out of sagebrush and available forage like that. I think guys are looking at these type deals. So, if you're running both cattle and sheep, you can probably winter those sheep a little cheaper with maybe some distiller grade dry grain pellets or alfalfa pellets to get them through versus trying to winter a cow.”
He encourages ranchers to visit with their local MSU extension agent if they have questions about fall grazing or other options for their livestock.