Ranchers weather a long dry spell

US - The tawny flats of Warbonnet Ranch shivered as a stiff wind rummaged through grass coaxed from the ground by summer rain.
calendar icon 19 December 2006
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The grass and the rain, scant though they were, bought Larry Todd another season, maybe two. And on the parched ranges of southeastern Arizona in the middle of a drought, a rancher and his cattle can't ask for much more. Unless it's just more.

"This is good country if you get the rain," said Todd, who bought the ranch near Willcox, Ariz., in 1980 after fleeing the cooped-up Montana winters. "We had a pretty good summer, but it's getting pretty daggone dry again. If we don't get something this winter and spring … it's gonna be tough."

Todd knows tough. Drought forced him to sell nearly all of his cattle five years ago and take a job in town to keep groceries in the pantry. But he refused to sell the ranch and has rebuilt the herd to about 250 head, still only about half of what he had owned.

His story rings true to most Arizona ranchers, battle-weary veterans of an 11-year-old drought that has bruised their billion-dollar industry, pushing another of the vaunted "Five C's" of the state's traditional economy (cattle, citrus, climate, copper and cotton) closer to extinction.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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