Water Rights, Cattle Fights and Drought Sites! Oh My!

I am really looking forward to this weeks weather forecast not only because of the predicted warmth but because we also have a slim chance of rain!!

The most recent drought map
Moisture is needed terribly in our region (SW Kansas / Panhandle) because of the horrible drought we have been suffering through. Last year we only received a quarter of an inch of rain for an entire 12 month period at one of our feedyards just north of Liberal. It's dry. We have been in a state of emergency for near a year after the wild fire last spring.

Farmers are truly starting to fear this upcoming season for several reasons. First, many of them used so much of their water right's in the 2011 season that they actually started taking from their 2012 rights, already putting them behind on top of not getting any moisture this past winter.

 If you are not familiar with this terminology the legal definition of a water right is, a right to use in accordance with it's priority, a certain amount of water in  a specified time slot. Example: In SW Kansas the farmer that owns the water right is only allotted so many acres of water per year and if he goes over this allotment he will pay a fine and be deducted from the following year's allotment. However, last year when we were declared in a state of emergency, and it was instituted that no one will pay a fine it will just come out of the 2012 allotment because in order to get the crop to harvest or even the insurance cut offs, they had no choice.

The drought also effected the cattle production and market as well. Obviously when we have no moisture we have no grass therefore we have nothing to feed the cattle. I have never seen so much hay moving south in my life! It seem's almost every semi I pass is loaded down with hay out of the north heading to the panhandle and throughout western Oklahoma and Texas. There are many ranching operations out of the region that have gone to the extreme of moving their herds north in search of fruitful pastures. Those who could not find any, moved to late or flat couldn't afford it ended up culling (: to reduce or control the size of (as a herd) by removal of especially weaker animals) much more of their animals than they normally would in order to sustain the quality of the herd on what they could afford to feed them.

The situation doesn't look any brighter coming into this next warm season. Experts are already forecasting a hotter and drier summer than what we had last year, increasing concern for farmers and ranchers. Irrigation systems are already making their rounds of the field and cattleman are still trying to plan the future of their herd.

The purpose of this post is to bring awareness to anyone who does not understand, comprehend or doesn't know about the situation we are in, in the South West. We are the heart of the cattle industry and if something doesn't change quickly, we will have even more severe consequences in the future than what you think we are facing now.

So my request to the readers is: go pull out your tom-tom and start doing the rain dance!!

No comments: