Eastern Oregon Ranchers Struggle to Hang On to Herds
By Oregon Family Farm Association
The devastating wildfires of 2012 hit ranchers the hardest in Malheur and Harney Counties, leaving widespread shortages of forage and hay.
Now as winter approaches and feed supplies dwindle, members of the cattlemen’s association are searching for unburned private tracts and public land allotments that might be grazed. Even before this year’s wildfires, many areas were hit with a severe drought that caused diminished forage and hay production, “off by one-third to a half in the best hay meadows,” rancher Fred Otley of Diamond told the Oregonian. Spring will pose additional hardships because U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service grazing allotments will be off-limits because of fire damage.
Nationally, cattle populations are down, some declines due to recent severe drought conditions in the Midwest and Texas. Consequently, beef prices have been rising, which gives ranchers in Eastern Oregon reason to hold on to their herds and persevere through this uncertain time.
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