Time to Re-Visit Drought Plans for the Ranch: May 2017 Update Back »

Figure 1. S.D. Grasslands Current Projected Production for May 1, 2017.

Recent rainfall across South Dakota has eased drought concerns in some areas of the state. However, other areas are still at risk and ranchers need to keep a close eye on rangeland conditions and update their drought plans.

Grassland Production Estimates
The South Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) current grass production estimates and projected peak grass production estimates for May 1, 2017 (Figure 1 and Figure 2) indicate improved conditions compared to last month.

Figure 2. S.D. Grasslands Projected Peak Production by July 1, 2017.

Climate Outlook
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center also predicts a wetter period for the next 3 months (Figure 3). However, SDSU Extension State Climatologist Laura Edwards cautions, “The North Central Region is still half or less of average rainfall in the last two months.” For more information, see Summer Season Climate Outlook 2017.

Figure 3. Precipitation outlook for June through August 2017.
Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Looking Ahead

Critical Production Months
As mentioned before, April, May, and June are critical months for precipitation and grassland production in the Northern Plains. By July 1, 75% to 90% of vegetation growth has been completed (Gates). Ranches in South Dakota that received half or less of average rainfall by this point (May 24, 2017) should be implementing management actions within their drought plan and adjusting stocking rates. For example: delaying turnout, culling cows, running no yearlings, moving animals to other areas in the state if possible and cost effective.

Drought Planning
If no drought plan is in place for the ranch, please see Time to Revisit Drought Plans for the Ranch information regarding the South Dakota Drought Tool and the importance of trigger dates within a drought plan. With roughly a month left in the spring growing season, ranch managers need to stay diligent with their drought plans to ensure the rangeland resource will remain in favorable condition and recover faster when precipitation returns.


  • Edwards, L. 2017. Summer Season Climate Outlook 2017. SDSU Extension, Brookings.
  • Gates, R. 2013. Developing Trigger Dates for Drought Contingencies. SDSU Extension, Brookings.
  • Kelly, S. 2017. Time to Revisit Drought Plans for the Ranch. SDSU Extension, Brookings.
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