National Drought Mitigation Center

National Drought Mitigation Center
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Drought affecting eastern Montana producers, businesses
7/10/2017 5:32:51 PM

Business & Industry
Water Supply & Quality
Custer County, MT
Daniels County, MT
Dawson County, MT
Fallon County, MT
Garfield County, MT
McCone County, MT
Petroleum County, MT
Phillips County, MT
Powder River County, MT
Prairie County, MT
Richland County, MT
Roosevelt County, MT
Rosebud County, MT
Sheridan County, MT
Valley County, MT

Start Date: 4/1/2017 - End Date: 7/9/2017
We are farmers and ranchers in western Richland County, Montana, approximately 20 miles south of Brockton, MT. According to Glasgow National Weather Service-- we have had the driest April-June precipitation on record and driest June on record. We have harvested 90% less hay than average. Our winter wheat is half the height of average, the heads are half the size, and we will be harvesting 3-4 weeks ahead of average. Our spring crops we planted are stunted (if they even emerged, which many fields only had partial emergence). Spring wheat heads that are filling have very small kernels. We have moved cows to late summer/fall pastures 2 months earlier than normal to access grass and other sources of water. We are going to be drilling an additional stock water well and pipelining water to other areas for our cattle to access. Estimation of cost around $60,000 for completion. We have been rebuilding old fence and building new fence to access old CRP ground that we lease. CRP hay that is there is burning up and losing quality rapidly. We have had 90+ degrees since July 2 and the extended forecast shows continued heat trend. We are also volunteer firefighters for our county. We have a county-sponsored pickup with water tank unit. We are very worried about the fire season with CRP haying opening on July 16 (especially with the forecasted temp of 101*). I was also at a meeting last night in Glasgow, MT with MT Representative Greg Gianforte. I was there with 12 other producers representing 8 counties in NE MT that are in the drought zone. Here are some of the reports that were given last night: -One rancher in Phillips county said that using past data and statistics that he keeps on his livestock, that his cows are losing 2.5 lbs of weight a day due to not having quality feed (that was the measurement on June 18 when nutrition of forage should be at its peak). He normally doesn't have to supplement his cows until late August, but he started already 3 weeks ago, and this is an expensive additional cost. -One ag-related business estimates they will lose $30M through the rest of this year in lost equipment sales, lost repairs, and they may have to lay off some of their 58 technicians because there isn't enough work to keep the mechanics and technicians busy for 40 hours a week. -No one in the room has had to let go farm/ranch hired hands, but several know neighbors who have done so already. -One young rancher near Poplar has only been doing this for 5 years, and just bought their own land this year. He will have no income this year from farming, maybe a little bit from ranching. -Irrigators are also seeing issues with things drying out quickly. It will be more expensive paying the power bills for the pivot irrigators than what they'll get in crop returns. -A rancher stated that usually at this time of year he has 900 lb yearlings. This year they are 800 lbs due to the lack of forage, and at the current price of feeder cattle (hugely volatile, from $1.40/lb to $1.60/lb) that is a large loss on thousands of cattle. ‚Äč-One last comment, not from this meeting but from a former Valley County Sheriff. Last year he cut 330 round bales of hay. This year he got 22. In addition to this, I have heard several people say they will not be hiring custom harvest crews because of the lack of crops (loss of income for those crews). Many businesses are already feeling the effect of the drought--we aren't buying equipment and vehicles, getting things serviced in town, going out to supper, buying new furniture, shopping, traveling to larger towns like Miles City, Billings, etc. to shop, and more. From Richland County, Montana, on July 9, 2017