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Recent rains lift pond levels, spirits for Oklahoma ranchers

A Logan County rancher provides one example of how crucial recent rains have been for those who received them.
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: April 28, 2013

/articleid/3804062/1/pictures/2037767">Photo - Top: John Pfeiffer walks Wednesday by a pond on his ranch near Mulhall.  Bottom: The ranch was so dry in November that Pfeiffer could follow a dusty cow path running through the drought-stricken pond. Photos By David McDaniel, The Oklahoman
Top: John Pfeiffer walks Wednesday by a pond on his ranch near Mulhall. Bottom: The ranch was so dry in November that Pfeiffer could follow a dusty cow path running through the drought-stricken pond. Photos By David McDaniel, The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Mesonet weather network station at nearby Marshall has recorded 11.51 inches of rain this year. Of that, 5.62 inches fell in the last 30 days.

He said that with the subsoil moisture, he should have grass for his cattle through at least July.

“There should be some hay to put back to feed these cows with next winter,” Pfeiffer said. “And those things will make the decisions easier to make, too.”

Steve McKinley, acting executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, also said many areas have received needed moisture and will be able produce needed forage to stop feeding hay and hopefully raise the hay needed to carry them through the next winter.

However, McKinley added, “There are still a lot of areas that are dry, and there are areas that have received moisture to raise needed forage, but haven't had the run off to replenish needed pond water.”

“Livestock drinking water is a must,” McKinley said. “Forage is next and as John did, we are all praying that we continue to get rain so that we can fill the ponds and grow needed forage.”

This pond that Pfeiffer stands beside now was also full in April and May 2012. And even though this drought extends back to October 2010 for some, a year ago the U.S. Drought Monitor showed only 15 percent of Oklahoma in moderate to exceptional drought. No area was in extreme drought, the worst category, at that time. But the drought returned, and he knows it could come again.

He also knows that whenever the drought does end, the effects of it will possibly still be felt by agricultural producers for some time.

McKinley said during the recent years of drought, not all producers were able to hang on. And he believes that even in the case of producers who have received rain, most are cautiously optimistic.

“When you are out of drinking water, hard decisions have to be made,” McKinley said.

Pfeiffer, for one, would like to think the drought is over.

“I'm not that naive,” Pfeiffer said. “I've lived in Oklahoma too long to think that, but there's no place else I'd rather be.”


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