Thursday, November 19, 2020

New Mexico ranchers face historic drought

...The rest of De Baca County, more than 2,000 square miles in New Mexico’s southeastern region, is also in some of its worst drought conditions in years. The area typically receives 12 inches of rain a year, but only has around 6 inches so far this year. Ranchers across New Mexico are selling off large portions of their cattle, in some cases more than half their herds, as drought has ravaged what little grassland remains. And while ranchers sell cows every year, 2020 has seen many sell in larger quantities, especially breeding cows that produce the calves ranchers rely on. It’s not an easy choice to make, even in the worst of times. Ranchers spend years developing breeding strategies and have to start from scratch once mother cows are sold for slaughter. The drought has forced many ranchers to sell their animals because their land can’t sustain the cows through winter. Purchasing feed for the herd when there’s not enough grass is expensive. Just east of Overton’s property, that heartbreaking decision was on full display. Ted McCollum was in the process of selling off all 125 head of cattle on the allotment; many of his neighbors came by to help guide his herd into large semi-trucks, the air thick with dust. McCollum said ranching is a long-term investment and that they can’t rely on steady rainfall next year to make up for this year’s losses. “It’s probably going to take four or five years to get over some of the inertia,” he said. It’s not just ranchers in De Baca County or even the southeast facing this predicament. The dramatic sell-off of cattle is occurring in nearly every part of the drought-stricken state. Charlie Myers, co-owner of Cattlemens Livestock Auction in Belen, sells cattle for ranchers in every corner of New Mexico and said he’s seeing more cows sell for less money. They wouldn’t be able to survive on what little grass remains. “The cattle are as cheap as I’ve seen them and I’ve been here 47 years,” Myers said...MORE

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