No profession is without its challenges and this year the challenge for the world of agriculture is water. Much like last year at this time, Wyoming’s mountain snowpack is below average. NOAA hydrologist Jim Fahey reports that below normal streamflow volumes are expected across a majority of Wyoming’s watersheds.
“Now here again with kind of the same snowpack for southern and southeast Wyoming,” said Fahey. “We’re just hopeful we’ll get some spring rain because that really determines how deep of a drought we get into.”
Brett Moline with the Wyoming Farm Bureau explains how the lack of precipitation would impact agriculture this time around, “The big thing is that if we don’t get rain by the middle of May, we won’t have any grass on our rangeland. So people will have to be prepared to move livestock as quickly as possible s they don’t do degradation.
“What got us through 2012 was actually 2011. A lot of places had a lot of grass left over… and they carried it over. More people were able to keep animals because 2011 was such a good year. We don’t have that this year, we used it all last year.”
Moline says this is not the first time Wyoming has had to deal drought and that it’s just one of many things in the state that are out of anyone’s control. He says it’s best to focus on the positive, “The good news is that other parts of the country are getting rain. Typically when you have to sell because of drought, everyone else is too, so the prices take a digger. Nationwide our cattle inventory is way down, but if other places get grass, they’ll be looking to buy cattle which should help to moderate the downward pressure on prices.”
While many ranchers are starting to look at having to sell, Moline says it’s not quite time to make that call and that there’s still time for Wyoming to get rain.
“If we can get three inches of rain our rangeland will handle it pretty well,” reports Moline. “The positive thing about it being dry is that you don’t have the problems with calving that you do when you’re having a real cold spell or a blizzard. So there is a positive side to it being dry, but out biggest concern right now is, ‘will we get enough moisture to grow grass?’”
Moline says most of the people involved in agriculture always seem to be prepared for anything and that he’s confident they’ll find a way through, no matter what Mother Nature brings to the table.