Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2003


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVIII December 9, 10, and 11, 2003, Mitchell, Nebraska.


A destination is implicit in considering a journey. While travel may be an end in itself, the notion of a journey most often incorporates a substantial change from current location or present conditions. This is particularly true for a “journey to recovery.” It is essential to have a clear destination and a carefully planned route in order for the journey to have the desired outcome. Yogi Berra is reported to have captured the importance of knowing one’s destination this way: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

A realistic understanding of drought is essential to appropriate planning and response when rainfall is short. “Average” rainfall is a misleading index of potential plant growth conditions for our region. The mathematical mean for precipitation is calculated from a few years when rainfall is above “normal” and more years that a below normal. Additionally, exceptionally dry years should not be unexpected. Cyclic drought is characteristic of arid and semi-arid areas of the world. Viewing drought as unusual or as a crisis is not realistic.

The Northern Great Plains are in the midst of a persistent climatic pattern of “below average” precipitation of 3 to 5 years duration. The severity of the current pattern is exacerbated by unusually favorable rainfall during the decade of the 1990s. Current conditions seem that much more serious by contrast. While optimism is always appropriate, the prudent manager prepares for the worst, rather than anticipating the best and suffering the consequences.