Drought conditions are improving across most of the country; however the dry pastureland across most of California is forcing state cattle producers to make life-changing decisions.
The latest Drought Monitor report by the USDA shows most of California is in extreme drought. The state is entering the third consecutive year of drought with 2013 ending as one of the driest on record.
The lack of moisture is drying up grazing pastures and increasingly high hay prices are forcing cattle producers to sell off livestock at a time when sale barns are typically slow. The Associated Press reports the pens at 101 Livestock Market's cattle auction on California's Central Coast are packed. The auction typically sells between 100 and 150 animals early in January, but drought conditions have brought 800 to 1,000 animals weekly to the auction.
Continued dryness in the forecast and precipitation at less than 20 percent of normal paint a gloomy future for the industry. Pastures which typically offer green grass for grazing cattle are dry and reservoirs are falling lower.
Romaldo Martin has decided to liquidate his herd, selling 160 animals over the past two weeks with plans to sell another 100 or more. He told the Associated Press persistent dry conditions may force him to sell all of his cattle.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life ... It's a disaster."
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency late last week, but the low-interest loans provided to farmers surviving the drought doesn’t include state cattle ranchers.
"We can't make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California's drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas," Brown said in a statement.
Brown has asked for all state residents to conserve water.