Cattle ranchers in southern Utah are hurting from this spring's drought.
"We'll all go broke if rain doesn't fall soon," said Jack Bowler, who ranches on property that has been in his family for generations. Grazing his cattle on the same range is his cousin Fenton Bowler, who lives in Veyo.In the winter, both men run their cattle on the Snow Spring range, which borders the Beaver Dam Wash near Motoqua (on the far western edge of Washington County and into Nevada). In the summer they move the cattle to the Dixie National Forest rangeland in Ox Valley, west of Enterprise, Washington County. Fenton Bowler, who lives in Veyo, also places part of his herd on Pine Valley Mountain.
Jack Bowler said one spring in the Nevada part of the range was pooling just enough water to water a cow, not a herd.
Fenton Bowler discovered two of his cows dead this year. "I can't find 10 of mine and I'm worried," Jack Bowler said.
Bowler said good hamburger cows are only bringing about 19 cents a pound right now at the Cedar City auction. "I sold two of my best heifers two weeks ago. They were good, fat 500- to 600-pound heifers. I had to take $211 a piece for them because I couldn't afford to feed them. I used to get $400 to $500 for a heifer like that."
"You can't feed a $50 cow, on $100 a ton hay and make any money," he said in the wry way of a southern Utah cattleman. But he noted that beef in stores is not cheaper. "I can't figure that one," he said.
Bowler says he knows that every so often there will be bad years and he tries to plan and weather these times. "I raise cattle and ranch because I enjoy this life, it's in our blood, but if it doesn't rain soon, we'll have to sell as much as we can and give cows away, I guess. But I keep hoping it will rain.
He remembers an uncle who used to say, "Every day that passes brings us closer to rain." Bowler hopes his uncle was right.