After three years of drought conditions, Lancy and David Falk, of Norwood — like others in the cattle business in 2021 — have sold much of their small herd. Their operation used to run 25 cow-calf pairs. Now, the Falks are down to just six pairs. That’s because of limited water and having to buy expensive hay in the current drought.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Lancy Falk told The Norwood Post on Monday. “There’s not much water.”
Last year, the Falks bought $10,000 in hay to try to get them through. Now they’re discouraged that the grasshoppers have arrived — typical when extreme drought happens and insects start eating the feed.
Lancy Falk grew up cattle ranching in the Boulder area. Her family has ranched for generations. Her husband has been in the business since the 1970s, too. For them, these times are hard.
With very little water for livestock or to make hay, the Falks wonder how much worse it can get.
They took their pairs to the Delta sale recently, an experience which also left them bitter, since workers at the sale barn separated the calves from the cows. Falk said she considered that “animal cruelty in her book.” She called the sale barn to let them know.
Now, she knows of other ranchers in the same situation, selling down due to drought.
In fact, Snyder Ranches sold half their cow-calf pairs this year. Shelley Snyder Donnellon, also of Norwood and speaking on behalf of her family’s ranch, said when the Snyders starting losing money, they had to sell 300 pairs.
Donnellon is a fourth generation rancher in Norwood. Her grandfather, Terry Snyder, always said, “hay in the barnyard is money in the bank.” After three years of drought, the Snyders have had to scale back.
“Most can maintain one year of drought,” she said. “This is three to four years of this.”
She said she can remember a year when she was younger, in high school, when her family had to sell down. They had to buy hay that year, too. Still, she doesn’t remember things ever being as tough as they are now.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “It’s really hard for the next generation, when we see dad and (and other ranchers). How do we put our lives into it? Everyone’s hanging on by their nails right now.”
The Brays, outside of Norwood, are also struggling. Lance and Nichol Bray said they sold their entire herd in 2018 due to drought. Then, that was 750 head. In 2019, Lance Bray said he and his brother bought some back. Now, they’re wondering if they’ll also have to sell down again.
“We’ll probably have to cull them pretty heavy, too,” he said on Monday.
Bray said it’s frustrating.
“It’s hard to lose your whole livelihood,” he said. “And then there’s a lot of unknown. How are you going to make it work? You still have payments, even though you don’t have your income.”
Like others, Bray doesn’t know what the future holds. He just hopes for a lot of rain.