Recent rainfall favors farms and ranches

By Glen Seeber: CNJ staff writer

For months, when Clovis area farmers and ranchers smiled, it may have looked more like a grimace. But that has all changed in recent weeks.

Over the past week, Clovis has received more than 2 inches of rainfall, prompting big grins and the forecast of big bucks for those in the agricultural business.

“We’ve had what some folks like to call a ‘billion-dollar rain,’” Tye Curtis, co-owner of Curtis & Curtis Seed, said Monday afternoon. “It’s amazing how much income derives from rain. Wheat has gone from ‘nothing’ to 20-bushel wheat. It’s been positive for everybody; I don’t know of anybody who would have a negative.”

Curry County Ag Agent Stan Jones agreed.

“You’ll have a hard time finding a farmer or rancher who doesn’t have a smile on his face, thanks to the rain,” Jones said.

Dairy cows may experience minor problems in the wet weather, he said, but “dairymen farm a lot of land, too, and they’ll have grins as big as everyone else.”

“Two months ago, there was no wheat. Now, barring hail, we should see a good wheat crop,” Jones said.

There is a dark side to the improved wheat picture, depending on whether cattle are grazing on it.

“Any time you have cattle on a wheat pasture, you have bloat. But ranchers and farmers put out a mineral — on wheat, it’s high magnesium — to take care of bloat.”

Bloat occurs when cattle develop too much gas, and are unable to expel it because of some obstruction, according to a University of Florida Web site. Too much gas results in labored breathing and, without relief, ultimately death.

“This is certainly an economic situation,” Jones said. “You don’t make money if you don’t have live cattle, so most ranchers put out critical minerals.”

Although West Nile Virus has been of concern in this area, it is not a problem at present, he said. “It’s still too cold for mosquitoes.”

A freeze, on the other hand, could cause problems for farmers. The wheat, again, comes into the picture.

“A freeze can cause damage on the wheat if it’s getting ready to boot and put a head up,” Jones said. “With a freeze, the head would come up but never put any grain on it. It would never produce grain.”

Curtis said he spoke with several farmers about the possibility of a freeze Monday night.

“If it gets cold enough, it could cause problems. But it may be 30 degrees tonight. One farmer said as long as it doesn’t hit below 27, he’d be OK,” Curtis said.

Jones added: “Hopefully it will not be enough of a freeze to cause a problem.”

Meanwhile, the wet weather has delayed another aspect of agriculture.

“A lot of people are ready to plant corn and plant cotton and, in May, plant grain sorghum. With the rain, they can’t do anything” because the fields are too wet, Jones said.

“But they’ll gladly wait. Last week they had zero days to be in the field.”

Curtis said, “It’s a big gamble that agriculture has: Do you plant and hope for more moisture, or be conservative and don’t plant, because you expect it to be dry?”