Drought of 2020-21

Even though I haven’t been in the mood to post anything, I would be remiss not to journal one of the worst drought years in my lifetime, less rainfall (6.19”) than we received in 2013-14 (7.78”) during our 4-year drought of 2012-2016.  After feeding hay all summer long into the fall in 2013, we finally had to sell half of our cowherd in 2015.

Currently, all that our steep hillsides have to offer is a short blond fuzz of dry grass that will soon be dust.  I remember the drought of ’77 when the cows licked the grass seed to augment what hay we fed them.  Knowing what’s ahead, we’ve begun gathering to wean early and have already sent a bunch of good cows to the kill plant, many of which had calves in their bellies. Due to the lack of snow in the Sierras, there’s little irrigation water to grow hay and the price is high, while cows aren’t bringing much money. Furthermore, stockwater from our natural springs in the upper country will be in short supply by fall——a perfect storm.

As we cull our cowherd, we’re focusing on a young nucleus as we realize that we’ll not get the money we’ll spend on hay this year with next year’s calf crop. Nevertheless, we’re plodding ahead: leaning forward as we take another step and praying for early rains this fall.

4 responses to “Drought of 2020-21

  1. I’ve often thought that a pipeline/canal from the flooding in the east/south to the west would make a huge difference.


  2. Drought: It’s the Western Cattleman’s Bane.

    I recall reading in 2019 a book Sierra history; it included an appendix that chronicled climate and hydrology from the late 1840s. Deep droughts and rampant wildfire years were much more the rule than the exception.

    My personal history with cattle in California goes back 50 years to my early childhood. The Western U.S. is not a kind place in general; the cattle business requires diamond brains and titanium cojones.


  3. Apologies: “I recall reading…a book *on* Sierra history”


  4. Not a great track record……moving rivers to places where rivers never ran (credit Mark Arax).


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