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California drought impact: Cattle ranches drying up

Farmers and ranchers are resorting to desperate measures as they cope with severe drought in California.
February 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Farmers and ranchers are resorting to desperate measures as they cope with severe drought in California. One local cattle rancher fears his business may dry up for good.

"When you see the cactus dying, you know it's a drought," said cattle rancher Rob Frost. Frost has ranched cattle in Ventura County for decades. Never before has he dealt with such a crisis as the current water shortage.

Normally, Frost's cows would be thriving on acres of tall green grass this time of year and drinking from flowing creeks and streams.

"Some of the private records go back prior to 1860, and nothing has been like this," said Frost.

Frost says this year is so dry it is the tipping point. He says 10 percent of his cattle got so sick in a matter of days, they died or had to be put down when they couldn't digest the hay they were being fed.

In about the last five months, Frost has already sold about 40 percent of his herd.

"We're kind of depressed. There's some programs through the USDA that's going to help us on some of the water-quality issues," said Frost.

One of the creek beds on the ranch is now completely dry. It usually averages about a foot of water. And the water that is left on the ranch is now very poor quality.

"The cattle don't get a good drink of good water and they haven't been able to digest what hay we're feeding," said Frost. "We've got veterinarians working with us, and University of California."

Frost says if there isn't drastic rainfall in the next couple of months, this drought could spell the end of an era for him.

"If we don't get through this year, we're going to go have to liquidate the entire herd, because we're just running out of money," said Frost.

President Obama is scheduled to visit Fresno on Friday amid growing cries for more federal aid for California's drought.

In the meantime, Frost is working with local politicians, veterinarians and researchers, hoping to come up with some solutions -- and fast.


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