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County ranchers eye weather

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG — Huerfano County ranchers have always watched the weather closely. This year, southern Colorado has been in an extended drought, and now, early snows have dropped six to eight inches across the area, according to County Commissioner Roger Cain, during the regular county commission meeting last Wednesday.
Ranchers are now having to purchase hay to feed their stock, driving up their costs in late fall.
“Hay is about $165 to $175 per ton right now,” Dave Stroh, President of the Huerfano Basin Stockgrowers Association, said. “We’re getting our hay out of Kansas and Sterling, Colorado.”
Stroh said that if the Arctic cold front stays in the area, it will have an impact on ranchers in the county. However with a warming trend in effect until Monday, Dec. 12, the impacts of the weather will be low. “This cold front froze cattle ponds putting about five inches of ice on them.”
“We are figuring to use about a half-ton of hay per head, maybe a bit more, feeding them around 15 to 20 pounds three times a week.” Stroh noted.
After the snow melt the cattle will be able to graze again, but the drought has impacted the industry in the county. County ranchers are reporting herd reductions of around 6,000 head and rising feed costs.
“A sell off may happen if spring rain in April, May and June doesn’t happen and this winter is as severe as it was in 2006. Ranchers will start shipping cattle then,” Stroh said. “Ranchers live day to day out here, and in this business we have to have faith.”
County Administrator John Galusha updated a report about a Chinese solar panel manufacturing firm coming into Huerfano County. He told county commissioners the possibilities concerning the business “have blossomed. It’s possible that Las Animas County has agricultural property the Chinese can develop. They are looking to purchase range land for a green house in order to grow produce.”
Galusha said that the Chinese may arrive before Christmas and have expressed a commitment to invest in Huerfano County. “There is more on this, but the information won’t be ready for release to the public for another two weeks.”
The county commissioners reappointed Della Duran to the Huerfano County Health Department board. Duran is presently on the board. Her new term will run from January 2012 to December 2014.