As fall heads toward winter, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas’ weather has seen more moisture than earlier in the year, making it appear as though some drought-weakened pasture resources are healthier than they might be.
"Many forage-livestock producers are hopeful that the coming year will be significantly better than 2011; however, while rainfall will dramatically improve winter pastures and early spring forage production, the degree of recovery of many summer pastures remains unknown," said Daren Redfearn, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forage and pasture management specialist.
There is no easy answer as to how long it will take drought-damaged summer pastures to recover, in part because lingering drought effects will not disappear immediately with the onset of recent, more typical precipitation patterns.
"Since long-term drought recovery is not common, there is no good rule-of-thumb to follow," Redfearn said. "It could take several years for many pastures to fully recover. This is especially true if drought conditions continue, as some weather experts have predicted."
Past grazing and management practices will determine the extent of damage that has occurred from the drought. The dry period that began during the summer of 2010 extended into the fall months and continued through the winter, spring, and summer months of 2011.
"Most pastures have been used heavily for two consecutive summers," Redfearn said. "Some pastures were harvested for hay later than normal or grazed later than normal with little or no opportunity for fall regrowth. An additional complicat