Deep New Mexico drought affecting current, future farmers
Posted at: 09/19/2012 6:55 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, Eyewitness News 4
The great drought of 2012 is deepening, and New Mexico ranching families are feeling more pain, especially in the bank account. We found plenty of them at the junior livestock show at the State Fair on Wednesday.
The National Weather Service confirms that the last 24 months have been the driest in New Mexico since record keeping began in 1895. Sixty-two percent of the state is in "severe" drought - or worse.
But the junior livestock shows must go on, even if the drought has turned the grass brown and shriveled the hay in the fields, and feed costs have shot through the roof, and ranchers are selling off their herds because they cannot afford to feed them any more. To the young competitors, the future is right now and the drought is something for grownups to worry about.
Dylan Smyer of Deming, leading his prize steer into the judging ring, said the cattle business is still looking good to him.
"It's hard getting started," Dylan said. "But once you get 'em started, it's fun."
"If I have kids, I want them to show," said Zoe Walker of Roswell, waiting to show off her steer. "It's a real fun experience, you get to meet new people. I'm not gonna get discouraged."
But for the grownups, there's plenty to be worried about - a future where family ranching may be a thing of the past.
"It's gonna be tough, it's gonna be real tough,' said Stanley rancher, Tom Spindle. "A lot of kids are leaving the farm and the ranch. There's just no money to be made. They're just getting jobs in the towns and cities, going to college and not coming back to the ranch. Mother Nature could sure help us out with a little bit of rain."
Or snow. Lots of snow. Ranchers said the best scenario would be a nice wet winter with a heavy snow pack, and lots of runoff in the spring with streams and rivers and irrigation ditches full of water for abundant crops of alfalfa to feed the cattle.