Cattlemen, as always, have to take the bad with the good.
Everyone in agriculture knows how frustrating it can be when you find yourself relying fully on the whims of Mother Nature. Our little part of the world is mired in a three-year drought that the experts say exceeds what was experienced in the dust bowl days. The drought had become a cloud over every single management and marketing decision.
I think only a rancher or farmer can fully understand what it feels like when the storm clouds build and it starts to rain when you have been praying for just that for a long, long time. It was one of those beautiful rains, nearly 3 in. over 3 days, every drop soaking into the ground with very little runoff. It was, in fact, our single biggest precipitation event in over 15 years. And some people not very far from us got up to 3 in. more.
It may not have ended the drought, but it put us miles and miles ahead of where we were before it started. For perspective, that rain increased our total precipitation for the last 36 months by 25%! This was the kind of rain that makes you want to linger a little while after church and talk to everyone—the whole community experienced soaring prospects and attitudes.
As beautiful as this rain was, it came with an asterisk. Our friends on the front range of Colorado didn’t experience a wonderful rain like us; a myriad of unique weather conditions conspired to give most everyone a 100-year flood, and a few areas received what they are calling a 1,000-year event.
Some parts of the front range received anywhere from 12 in. of rain to more than 20 in. And when that amount of rain starts rolling down those mountains, it is amazing how much water can be generated. The pictures were devastating; the stories heartwarming as you heard about the heroic rescue efforts undertaken on behalf of stranded people and even stranded livestock.
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Officials are now using the “b” word, saying the damages may stretch into the billions of dollars. Literally, some people watched their livelihood and belongings washed away. The folks in Southern Colorado have been the worst hit in the drought; almost every operation is down to 40% or less from its normal capacity and most were trying to decide what to do going into the fall. Thankfully, they received a little rain, up to an inch in some areas. But while welcomed, it certainly wasn’t enough to change the drought dynamic yet. Like us, they watched the flooding with an asterisk, feeling a little guilty that they were jealous of the rain, and hoping it might come their way.
The celebration was tempered by watching the devastation that happened to those who live just a couple of hours away in some instances. The resilience of people is always amazing in the face of such disasters; Mother Nature can be fickle, we will never tame her, and no doubt she will win individual battles with farmers and ranchers as it is an unfair fight. But I don’t think she stands a chance when faced with the resilience of ranchers and farmers in aggregate.
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