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Huerfano County drought hitting ranchers hard

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG— Huerfano County ranchers are looking at a forecast showing that between now through December, average temperatures will be above normal, and average precipitation will fall below normal.
Earlier this month, Huerfano County water commissioner Doug Brgoch said the county had received only half the precipitation it normally receives by the end of September.
Impacts to ranchers and land owners are becoming more evident as water supplies begin to deplete. Wells are going dry and the cattle industry is rated at 60 percent fewer cattle, now than it was two years ago. And according to County Commissioner Roger Cain, by February 2012 herds will be down 80%.
“We are in the first year of what is normally a two to three year drought cycle,” Cain said during last Wednesday’s county commission meeting. “Small households, in the county are beginning to fold, and with 80 percent of the county’s water coming from rain and snow, the forecast for a dryer than normal winter won’t be good for the county.”
“Conditions like this will make an aging population of ranchers vulnerable to water and mineral sales.” Cain said. “The last drought was about ten years ago and the average age of the county’s ranchers was 54 years old, today they are 64. It takes about 10 years to bring back cattle herds.”
In other business, the county closed on the purchase of property for the proposed ambulance building that will be built in the Northlands District. With closing costs the purchase totals $75,120.