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Drought Information Helps Producers

Once drought became a real possibility in late spring 2017, NDSU Extension specialists, agents and administrators strategized how they could help farmers and ranchers.

Extension specialists created 6 fact sheets, developed or updated 50 publications, gave presentations at 12 meetings, sent otu 27 news releases and conducted more than 40 news media interviews.

Once drought became a real possibility in late spring 2017, NDSU Extension specialists, agents and administrators strategized how they could help farmers and ranchers.

They held weekly conference calls that included representatives from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), North Dakota Agriculture and Health departments, livestock organizations, state veterinarian’s office and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the state climatologist. Participants shared drought impacts and discussed gaps in resources. As a result, specialists:

  • Updated Extension publications and NDSU’s drought website, and created fact sheets, including a comprehensive list of livestock drought resources
  • Drafted news releases and gave numerous media interviews on issues such as testing for nitrates before feeding drought-stressed feed to livestock, water quality concerns, managing forage and feed resources, early weaning, weed control, small-grain diseases, herbicide application and haying drought-damaged crops
  • Developed a water testing guide in collaboration with the Health Department and NDSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and provided Extension’s county offices with water sampling kits

2017 drought in North Dakota (NDSU photo)
Agents held informational meetings and worked one-on-one with producers on drought management strategies. Many also conducted water quality and nitrate testing.

“With drought, many producers are in stress mode and looking at how they can find enough hay for winter, but they forget about the hidden dangers sometimes, so nitrate testing tells them where to put their resources (labor),” says Craig Askim, agriculture and natural resources agent in Extension’s Mercer County office. “They don’t need to spend time haying a field that is high in nitrate, or at least they know how to manage it and feed it in the future if the nitrates are present.”

Agents also:

  • Reported their county’s drought conditions weekly through an Extension-created online form. The state climatologist provided the data to the U.S. Drought Monitor author. Making sure drought maps accurately reflected conditions in North Dakota was important because the FSA uses the official drought designations as a basis for disaster payments. This resulted in North Dakota farmers and ranchers receiving more than $50 million for livestock-related losses in 2017.
  • Collected livestock feed samples from producers. The samples were tested on campus and producers received information on nutrient content and nitrate levels.
  • Provided input that a specialist used to create maps of range and pasture moisture, range use and available surface water

“Extension played a critical role in providing producers with drought resources in a manner that enabled them to be proactive instead of reactive in planning their drought response,” says Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist.

For more information:

Miranda Meehan, 701-231-7683,

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