It Will Rain Againfor The Guadalupe County Communicator
Over a thirty-six-month period, not a single droplet of rain fell on Guadalupe County. As of June 5, 2013, New Mexico was declared to be in “extreme drought” as billowing dust filled the air at a ranch in Cedarvale, NM. The widespread drought forced ranchers like Wendell Wells and Ethan Fuchs to rethink whether one of the state's biggest and most vibrant industries was still a viable profession.
"It's so dry the weeds aren't growing," state veterinarian, Dave Fly said.
The absence of roughage has meant that profit margins decrease as more money is spent to ensure the cattle have proper nutrition with some ranchers paying roughly five-dollars a head per day. For a small ranch with 200 heads of cattle, that means $1,000 dollars a day or $30,000 a month. Hay prices soared to eighteen dollars a bale, more than double what it was three years prior.
The drought has taken a psychological toll on the ranchers and a physiological toll on the cattle. During a day of branding at the Wells’ ranch, three calves suffered hernias after castration. Wendell Wells said in all his time ranching, he had only witnessed one calf with a hernia. He attributed the condition to a lack of nutrition, causing the stomach lining to be thinner than normal.
For even the most prominent ranchers in all of Guadalupe County, the drought has taken its toll. The last option for Ethan and Dianne Fuchs was to round up the last remaining heads of cattle of the once four-hundred that occupied their twenty-five-thousand-acre ranch to sell to a buyer out of Texas.
"Two or three times every century, you're going to have a drought like this. If you choose to be a rancher, you know there's going to be years where it just doesn't work. The frugal ones survive," Fuchs said.
When the cattle broker arrived, strong winds, lightning and small droplets of rain mockingly huddled over the ranch. Yet, the little droplets of rain will not be enough to brighten the grim situation for Fuchs or other ranchers as it will take years of proper monsoons to repair the damage to the land.
"We're not going to sell the ranch. It will rain again," said Fuchs.