The 2011 drought not only resulted in a drastic reduction of cattle in the U.S., it also left pastures severely damaged.
Three years later, ranchers in our part of the state are encouraged about the prospects of rebuilding their herds, but also a little leery. Linda Jordens Galayda runs a cow/calf operation near Elkhart.
“I had actually started retaining some heifers last year, and kept back about fifty head and actually I was sort of hedging with those heifers because I felt like if I couldn’t keep them and the rains did not come, then I would be able to sell them still to someone else who might have more rain and more pasture.”
The 2011 drought forced Galayda to reduce the size of her herd by two hundred cows.
“So, we’ve got those that are now bred and ready to go into this year’s production, and then this year, once again, we’ll try and keep another fifty head ‘til we get ourselves rebuilt back to where we were.”
Even though Galayda is pleased with the way things are going, she’s not over confident.
“I will be cautious for the next couple of years. There are many factors that are playing into this. Of course, the weather is always going to be the biggest factor in whether or not we get that rain, so I’m taking a very cautionary approach. I don’t want to rebuild too fast. I want my land to have time to heal, for the grasses to really come back.”
While calf prices are at historic highs, most ranchers are just now digging out of the financial hole the drought put them in.
“My dad used to always say to put money aside for those bad years which we did, and that is what kept us in business, was that we had that set aside to kind of buy that hay during those drought years, you know to buy the supplements, to do the things we needed to do. We are just now getting back into a place where we’re starting to recover the funds that we spent trying to take our herds through that drought.”