OKLAHOMA CITY — Winter storms that dumped ice and snow across Oklahoma in December have cattle ranchers and wheat farmers optimistic about their fortunes in 2014, even as they say that more moisture is needed.
The water from melting ice and snow as a result of December’s precipitation has helped keep hay and pastures green and moist enough to keep cattle fed, according to rancher Paul Schilberg in Clinton in western Oklahoma, but more is needed.
“We’re not in bad shape right now, but we sure need some rain,” Schilberg said.
“We had some timely rains in August and it sure made the hay crop moist, and the wheat pastures are looking really good this year,” Schilberg said. “We just need a big old rain. For the most part, the rain we’ve gotten has pretty much soaked in, not that much runoff,” to fill dry ponds.
Agricultural economist Darrel Peel at Oklahoma State University said 2014 also appears to be shaping up as a good year for cattle ranchers after two years of drought conditions that had many ranchers selling at least some of their herd in order to feed, water and support the remainder of the herd.
“In the second half of (2013) these cattle markets have recovered very strongly. Cattle numbers are very limited and (because of) that tight supply ... in 2014, we’re predicting record cattle prices and record returns in profitably,” for ranchers, Peel said.
In southwestern Oklahoma, where the U.S. Drought Monitor reported extreme to exceptional drought conditions, the wheat crop was benefiting from the recent precipitation, said David Gammill, who has about 1,000 acres in wheat planted near Grandfield.
“We’ve gotten some pretty decent moisture. It’s encouraging enough to maintain the wheat, it’s enough to get us over to February,” when, Gammill said, rain will be needed to continue the wheat’s growth until harvest in late May to early June.