Heat wave poses challenge for cattle ranchers

July 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The sight from atop Roger Tweedy's foothill ranch in Fresno County was startling. Trees located near a creek were green but many others on the property were brown. They're drying and dying because of the heat.

Of bigger concern though to Tweedy was the dry grass which normally serves as feed for his 120 head of Angus cattle.

Tweedy explained, "Everything dried out earlier this year so when this grass dries out it's like cardboard. There's no protein value in it. It's just filler."

Without a steady supply of natural feed Tweedy needed to supplement their diet. "Now I'm buying hay and hay prices are way up because farmers that are raising hay are having to pay for water."

A ton of hay costs Roger $250. His cows can finish off almost a ton a day.

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright said the added cost will cause some ranchers to sell off their cattle earlier than expected.

Wright said, "In dry years like this one we normally see a heavy cull of the mother herd just because of the grass situation."

The cattle seek relief from the sun in the shade but Tweedy also keeps a close eye on their water supply.

Wright said, "It doesn't take long in this kind of heat for the cattle to suffer."

Tweedy normally moves his cattle around to feed on different patches of his thousand acre ranch. He said, "I rotated three times or three different fields trying to let a field have a rest and still grow back up but the moisture in the ground wasn't there so it didn't grow back very well."

Roger Tweedy also moves his cattle to Valley pastures but he must pay to pump water to grow the grass.


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