About the Ranch Drought Decision Models

Livestock ranching on semi-arid rangelands involves some of most complex decision-making of any natural resource production and land use system. Ranchers engage in sequential adjustments to weather, climate and range conditions and uncertainties that affect livestock production, as well as respond to weather-sensitive swings in feed prices and cattle markets

The Ranch Drought Decision Models that you can run and download from this site simulate this challenging decision process. In collaboration with the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER), we developed two ranch-drought decision models. The first, an on-line version that you can run from this site, simulates ten years of ranching decisions on herd size, feed purchases, and marketing strategies with and without drought, and with and without USDA’s range insurance. The spreadsheet version that you can download from here includes a ranch enterprise spreadsheet modified from one developed by Jeffrey Tranel, Rod Sharp, and John Deering, extension economists with the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service, a drought calculator emulating ARS drought tools, and a module simulating the USDA’s range insurance, which is based on NOAA gridded precipitation. The online version takes you through a sequence of years and the spreadsheet can be modified in several ways (more or less insurance, herd size, etc.) and produces a 5 year income and net worth graphs based on a set of drought responses (buy extra feed, rent pasture, etc.).

These models are research tools and can be improved with your input, so please use the contact page to give us ideas on how to improve them, especially making them more useful to ranchers.


Offline Spreadsheet model

Online interactive model