Ideas. Stories. Community.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Farm News & Views for the week of March 11, 2024

The Smokehouse Fire that burned over a million acres of grazing land, crop fields, barns and homes in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle a week ago is still a top ag news story. But there are still tales being told about the fire and its aftermath. As the fire moved closer, a fast thinking rancher in the northeast panhandle moved his cattle to a wheat field near his ranch headquarters, and used a tractor and field cultivator to work up the ground and make a fire break, which saved both his herd and the farmstead. But many of the ranchers who saved their herds have lost ranch buildings, livestock handling facilities, and hundreds of miles of fences, while grasslands and hay supplies have been incinerated. But as often happens when catastrophe strikes in the rural U.S., other ag producers in neighboring states are sending hay donations, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering assistance in the form of indemnity payments, emergency grazing options on Conservation Reserve grasslands, and low interest loans to ranchers who have lost cattle and feed. Karen Hickman, grassland ecologist at Oklahoma State University and president of the Society for Range Management offed some good news as well, pointing out that burned grasslands should recover “fairly quickly, ”since grasses are alive during the winter and only the dry dead leaves of the plants burned during the fires.

A team of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources advisers has created the Small Acreage Landowners website for landowners in California and other states. The site is designed to be a one-stop shop for backyard livestock producers, youth raising livestock, and other small acreage landowners. It provides information on livestock husbandry, pasture management, pests and predators, weed management and emergency preparedness in English and Spanish on the website. The website is available at

Since the beginning of January, the Four Corners Region has seen many days with daytime temperatures in the 40 to 50 degree range. But we haven’t had much precipitation , and the Drought Monitor Map bears that out, indicating that all of the Four Corners Region is abnormally dry, with much of the northwest corner of New Mexico in severe drought. The National Weather Service records report that Cortez has received just over two inches of precipitation since January 1st, while a weather watcher northeast of Cortez has recorded about an inch and a quarter of moisture. The NRCS Snotel Snow and Precipitation Update Report shows that rivers in the southwest region of Colorado are 90% of average, and the National Weather Service Monthly Precipitation Outlook is calling for slightly above average precipitation in the region for the next 30 days, which may provide some welcome moisture.

The Environmental Working Group announced a study recently that found the pesticide chlormequat in an overwhelming majority of oat-based products including major cereal brands such as Quaker Oats and Cheerios. The chemical, which is associated with reduced fertility, isn’t approved for use in food crops in the U.S., but was identified in 80% of participants in the study. The chemical is believed to have been applied to oat crops that were imported from countries that have approved the use of chlormequat on grain crops

Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “I think that there is only one quality worse than hardness of the heart and that is softness of the head.”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.