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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

We’re Hoping and Praying

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dennis Sun

Around this time of the year, following a droughty summer, people are always talking about the weather, what the spring holds for moisture and what the grass will look like this summer.

People in agriculture live by the weather, and it is always a topic for discussion. If there is a mountain range in sight, they can tell a lot just by the clouds blowing down the top of it. 

Years ago, when I was a teenager, we had a person who hired on to do chores around the main ranch, and he happened to be from the hills of Missouri. I thought he was really smart, and he was, as he did everything by the phases of the moon.

 I wish I had been more attentive and learned from him, as he was good at forecasting the weather or so I thought. I was a teenager.

We all think we’re weather forecasters, but those like the great Don Day put us to shame. If you are anything like I am, you don’t study the weather anymore, you just bring up Don Day and weather models on your iPad. 

Here we are in January, and the La Niña event is still going strong in the Pacific Ocean, from South America to north of Australia. They say it is a strong one. The temperatures have been recorded around 2.7°F below normal. 

This event, which happens every so often, is the cause of the drought in the Plains and Intermountain Region.

One of the things forecasters say, which is not so good, is the La Niña is not weakening. So far it looks as if the event will be around through spring and possibly even into the summer.

The event causes high snowpack in the mountains of northwest Wyoming and surrounding areas. Mountain snowpack is a good thing. However, the bad news is the plains away from the mountains are dry. 

In areas where there are 12 to 14 inches or less of annual precipitation, the lower precipitation trend means drought areas in the western Midwest and most of the plains have a high probability of continuing this way through the spring.

But, we’re pretty resilient. A couple of good rains at the right time will make for some good grass to graze. A hay crop may be a different story.

The last strong La Niña, resembling this year’s event, happened in 2011. The question is how long will this drier event affect the 2021 crop and hay production? 

Bryce Anderson, senior agriculture meteorologist for DTN says, “The potential is worth thinking about.” 

Crop weather scientists note when conditions are drier than average, the impact of the dryness could feed on itself. In other words, dry areas could get drier. I suppose the same goes for high-elevation grazing lands. 

La Niña events with their high mountain snowpack levels can be easier for those who irrigate with water from snowpack. I know in Wyoming, most of the storage reservoirs came into the early winter with high capacity, but forecasters have said the flow of the North Platte River where it enters into Nebraska will be half of what it normally is. 

0The truth is predictions are just that – predictions. Some are true, and some are not. Hope and prayer may be the answer for precipitation and a rain dance, weather permitting.

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