Chico State farm hit hard by drought

Jan 24, 2014 3:44 PM

Chico State College of Agriculture dean Dave Daley has been ranching for five decades and he's never seen a winter as dry as this one.

“We should be seeing that lush green growth,” he said, overlooking a cow pasture. “And we’re nowhere near it.”

At the Chico State farm, students and staff are fighting the challenges that come along with this harsh drought. By winter, the walnut trees usually have moist soil; but not this year.

“You expect to get mud on your boots out here in January,” Daley said. “But as you can see, there’s just very limited moisture.”

Because of this winter's low rainfall, Chico State is now using an irrigation system that normally is only used in the summer.

And it’s not just the plant life struggling; the entire livestock sector is struggling--especially cattlemen.

Heifers on the farm are normally on range land, eating the grass they walk on. But because of the drought, their feed is brought to them every day. And that adds up quick.

“If you can find Alfalfa hay, you'll probably at $250 a ton delivered if you buying in load lots,” Daley said. “And that’s if you can find. It usually its closer to $300.”

And if this season's weather doesn't improve soon, the effects will last for years to come.

“Those that know anything about California agriculture--the vegetable, fruit and nut capitol of the world—there’s going to be some changes,” Daley said. “Especially in the San Joaquin Valley.”


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