With their final harvest just about complete, Tooele County farmers say their fields have produced well this year despite a second year of drought.
Growers who irrigated their fields with reservoir water may have had more difficulty—some minor area reservoirs ran dry early this summer, said Leland Hogan, a local farmer, rancher and president of the Utah Farm Bureau. But farmers who had access to well water fared better.
The main concern now, Hogan said, is whether or not winter snowfall will make up for the dry summer.
“We need a good winter,” he said. “We need to have snow in the mountains, to fill our reservoirs—not just for agriculture, but for everyone.”
Hogan himself said his fields produced slightly more hay than average this year, and he was pleased that his last cut of alfalfa dodged the wet fall weather that ruined cut hay in some other fields.
Scott Droubay, who has fields of alfalfa, wheat and barley in Erda, said he too saw average yields from his crops this year.
“We typically get six to six and a half tons per acre,” he said, “and we were pretty close to that this year.”
However, Droubay said hay shortages in some areas, as well the expectation that demand for hay will increase when food runs short for grazing cattle, have increased the price for alfalfa hay eight to 10 percent this summer.
For Droubay, who has access to well water and no cattle to feed, the increase is relatively good news. But he worried what another dry winter might mean.
“If we have another poor winter, that will be three in a row,” he said. “I don’t know—it’s hard to tell when we will reach the point that wells run dry.”
While the fall moisture came too late to help most growers, Scott Livingston, who runs cattle in Vernon, said it has done wonders for his calves this year.
“Green grass in the fall has helped the calves—they put on a lot more weight this year,” he said.
Livingston said he did have trouble finding drinking water for his herd this year, because several reliable springs ran dry early in the summer and have yet to begin to produce water again.
The increased price of hay is bad news for ranchers looking to feed their animals over the winter, but Livingston said he has yet to hear of anyone who plans to thin out their herds to save money. With the range on the surrounding hills still in good condition, he said he has his fingers crossed that his herds will be able to graze longer than normal, saving him money on hay this winter.
Should local ranchers resort to selling off additional cattle this winter, it’s not a bad time to sell, Hogan said. Freak weather in other parts of the nation has decreased the number of cattle heading to market, which has in turn increased the price a rancher could get for excess animals.