We began weaning our first bunch of calves last week, three weeks earlier than normal, due to the lack of rain in March and April. From second-calf heifers sired by Vintage Angus bills, all of these calves are headed to Visalia Livestock Market on Tuesday. The whole bunch averages 600 lbs.
Though lighter than normal, there are some heifers we would have liked to keep for replacements, but our continuing drought conditions and uncertain feed and water resources make that option impractical. Whether Climate Change or other weather phenomenon, we have come to consider our circumstances to be the new normal for Sierra Nevada foothill ranches in California where cow numbers have been reduced by 40%.
After three years of drought, our springs which are dependent on the Sierra snowpack, and our stockwater ponds which are dependent on rain, are severely impacted, some dry already before summer’s begun. Each operation continues to adapt to diminishing resources as we try to hold our cow herds intact, having already culled deeply in 2013 and 2014.
As we head into our fourth year of drought, we’ve had to change our perspective, hoping to offset our smaller numbers with a good cattle market.