Peggy Sanders: Times on the farm and ranch are proving to be tougher than ever
How are ranchers and farmers in parts of the country faring through the terrible drought? Will they quit farming and ranching voluntarily? Not on your life.
For some, unfortunately, it will be their last year. Reading the advertisements for livestock auctions tells the story: “Selling due to the drought.”
On a normal year, ranchers rarely sell herds of mother cows, just a few here and there when cows become less productive. Sure, there are herd dispersals due to retirement, ill health or death, but those are more-or-less planned events.
At this time the Kalamath National Forest and a vast number of private land and other forests in far northern California and in Oregon are on fire. Homes are gone; pastures and trees have been decimated. When loggers were allowed to work, the trees were thinned on a regular basis and bug infestations were spotted early enough for treatment to be effective, allowing for healthy, growing forests. Then, pine beetles moved in, but apparently were not recognized until they were well ensconced in the forest. Now the trees are dead and dying, creating the perfect opportunity for the raging fires.
Blessed are the farmers who irrigate farms and ranches, for they can usually feed their cows.
A few ranchers are spending the money and buying enough hay to keep going through this fall and winter. For ranchers who have spent several years building herd numbers, and more importantly, herd genetics, selling out is heartbreaking. When a drought as severe and geographically far reaching as this one occurs, good cattle that might have otherwise been purchased by another rancher may instead be turned into hamburger.
It is the future generations of calves that will be missed and mourned. Once the mammas are gone, there will be no more babies, and no more income.
This year there was hail, which damages corn and sets it back in development; that is what happened to our corn. Our neighbors and others throughout the vast midsection of the country were wiped out by hail.
Calling it quits on the land has a devastating trickle-down effect. That means no harvest, which affects the implement dealer, the fuel supplier and on down the line in rural areas. As summer ended, more farm and ranch kids got their back-to-school clothes at second-hand stores. The agricultural community is living the adage, “make do, or do without.”
Ranchers and farmers like to tell themselves that they are a tough lot who do their best work when left to their own resources. But as the summer winds down, and the drought continues they do all have to be tougher than anyone thought possible for a long, long time.
As farmers and ranchers have said eternally, “Next year will be better.” ❖
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