Heavy snow or flooded pastures; A rough winter for ranchers

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 5:30 PM PDT
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FALLON, Nev. (KOLO) - The weather is often not kind to those who make their living off the land, but by any measure this winter has posed special problems for the state’s livestock industry. After years of drought ranchers were suddenly dealing with the opposite. And the problems it raised will linger for some time.

This winter’s heavy snowfall and lingering cold left some herds stranded with little to eat on range land especially in valleys in the northeastern part of the state.

Ranchers who had, in recent years, been forced to haul water to their cattle now had to haul feed.

In higher elevations the snow remains, the melt delayed by lingering cold and additional snow, but a new problem awaits and we’re already seeing it in the Fallon area.

Officials there are anticipating flooding as the Sierra snowmelt gets underway, so they’ve been releasing water from Lahontan Dam to create room and the excess water is being sent out into the desert.

It eventually finds its way to US95 south of Fallon and crosses under the highway in huge culverts built for just this reason in 2017.

And the other side is the Carson Pasture. This is happening at just the time when ranchers would usually be bringing their cattle there to graze.

“And the pasture is flooded,” says State Agricultural Director J.J. Goicochea. “And we’re not able to put cattle or sheep on these pastures. So we’ve gone from bad to worse, if you will, it’s kind of the first of many to come. The snowpack on the upper Humboldt hasn’t started to move yet and they’re going to be facing the same thing there.”

So it’s a double blow to the industry, one which Goicochea fears will cause some producers to quit or move elsewhere. The consumer will likely feel the impact in higher prices at the supermarket.

The state has asked for aid from the federal government. So far, no response.

“You can’t put the cows on the shelf,” says Goicochea. “That’s the thing people forget. We need these answers today. Replacement forage or supplements feeding.”