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The Management Calendar

Farm Business Management Update, April 2002

By Gordon Groover

With spring and warmer weather here, we are confronted by the fact that we may still be in the midst of a drought. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Seasonal Drought Outlook web site ( shows slow improvement, but water shortages are likely. Developing strategies to deal with the uncertainty of a dry spring and maybe a dry summer will test the skills of even the best managers. Livestock producers need to think about alternative ways to cover their forage needs through another production season. The first step is for them to estimate their total forage needs and typical forage production. Next, they need to estimate the shortfall under different scenarios to get a feel for how much forage they will have to make up if the drought continues. Producers should look for alternative crops to replace forages, specifically corn silage on soils with poor moisture holding capacity. Grain sorghum silage or pearl millet are possible alternatives. These crops can be planted later in the spring and are more drought tolerant. Better quality land should still be planted to corn silage since it will produce yields close to alternative crops on poorer land. Leasing additional cropland for silage production or share-leasing cropland for silage crops with farmers who have excess cropland or who normally produce grain are other options. Leasing or share-leasing additional hayland to meet shortfalls in hay production may also work. If the drought does, in fact, reduce summer forage production, producers need to consider planting fall crops (barley and wheat silages) to produce spring or late summer forages. In addition, establishing right-of-first-refusal contracts with neighbors to buy silage or hay crops at a predetermined price and quantity can also provide peace of mind. These are just some of the alternatives that could be incorporated into a plan to address a potential problem. Strategies developed to address a potential drought may never be put in place; however, if the producer has have planned for the worst case, he/she has a strategic plan to minimize adverse impacts. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is reported to have said, "The planning is more important than the plan." The same strategies can be applied to potential problems on the battlefield or the cornfield. To keep abreast of the drought, producers can visit the Virginia State Climatology Office at and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center at to look at current drought conditions, or for current drought forecasts.

Regardless of the weather conditions, farm business managers should consider putting the following activities on their management calendar for April-May.

In April and May days get longer, and the time has come to turn from planning to putting the plans into action.

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