FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Ranchers in northern Arizona are struggling with the effects of drought, leading some to consider reducing their cattle numbers.
Ranchers are attempting to mitigate dry conditions by moving cattle and supplying supplemental feed to prevent overgrazing, the Arizona Daily Sun reported .
Following a dry winter and with rainfall projected to be below normal through May, precipitation is not expected to replenish forage growth and fill water tanks for cattle in the area.
Judy Prosser said her Bar T Bar Ranch near Meteor Crater has not experienced any significant precipitation since August.
Navajo Nation ranchers in the Bodaway Gap are reporting that their earthen water tanks are dry, said Lee Yazzie, a member of the area’s grazing committee. The tanks are usually filled by snowmelt.
Managers at the Bar T Bar Ranch have moved 500 calves to Colorado to graze, Prosser said. More than 150 cows were moved to other lands that Prosser owns in Arizona.
The moves combined with high-nutrition supplemental feedings are part of the effort to prevent overgrazing, so the ranch will maintain grazing areas for next winter, Prosser said.
“Droughts become expensive,” Prosser said. “You have to hire additional labor just when you don’t need to be spending any more.”
Navajo Nation grazing officials are considering selling cattle before drought affects the animals, Yazzie said.
Kit Metzger of the Flying M Ranch said it’s possible the ranch may need to reduce herd numbers to align with available forage. It takes years for a ranch to recover from selling off animals, Metzger said.
Selling early could also crash cattle prices as ranchers across the state may need to reduce their herds at about the same time.
“So not only will you have less, but the ones you sell will be worth a great deal less,” Metzger said.
Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/