Farmers and ranchers feeling "real concern" from drought

Cattle graze land in Payne County near Stillwater. (KOKH/Jordann Lucero)

The US Drought Monitor report released for this week, puts most of Oklahoma in severe or extreme drought. Oklahoma farmers and ranchers say the situation has become serious.

"The drought is something that's becoming a real concern," Ryan Luter said.

His family ranches in northern Payne County and southern Noble County.

"We've gathered steers and we're actually going to market with them Monday, because of the lack of wheat pasture," he said. "What we're trying to do at this point is minimize the number of stock we have to feed, maintain and stretch our feed supplies at this point. If we don't begin to get rain in the spring, it just becomes a more emergency situation."

Wayne Whitmore, who has a ranch in southern Payne County, said he is not planning to sell off his cattle yet, but it could be a possibility the longer the rain stays away. He said ponds on his property are getting low.

"If they dry up, we have to find alternative sources for water," Whitmore said. Getting alternative sources can be labor intensive and costly.

His wheat crops which should be greening by now, have yet to emerge.

"In agriculture, moisture is life and that goes beyond agriculture. Without water nothing is possible," said Nathan Anderson, the director of the Payne County Extension office.

He said he's seeing the same kind of conditions Whitmore and Luter are reporting, throughout Payne County.

"From experience in agriculture, these winter rains are very vital to early spring and summer growth because we don't have that soil moisture deep down in the subsoil, so it can really even effect our summer crops," Anderson said.

The Extension is working to do what it can to help, with education courses for producers.

Agriculture is important to the local economy. In Payne County alone, Anderson said agriculture products bring in about $40 million in cash receipts. He said that money will turn over many times before it leaves the community.

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