Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

Western Drought, Part 2: Colorado Rancher Keeping the Faith

News / Newsline August 17, 2021

Credit: Nancy Caywood, used with permission.  

The western drought has multi-generation ranchers scrambling to keep their cattle operations alive. Micheal Clements shares more from Colorado.

Clements: Southwest Colorado rancher Zandon Bray is a third-generation cattle rancher trying to survive the ongoing drought. For the Bray Ranch, dry conditions are a recurring issue.

Bray: For us personally the drought is the one thing that has really set us back. 2018 was a devastating year for us. We sold our cattle herd from 800 breeding cows, and by the time the dust settled on that we had 45 cows left. And then in the spring of 2020, we decided we wanted to get back into the cow business and so we bought some cows, and the summer of 2020 hit us with another drought. We've been buying a few cows here and there but then we end up selling more. And today, the ranch has 350 cows on it.

Clements: Bray says right now it’s all about surviving the upcoming winter.

Bray: This is the third out of the last four years, that our ranch has not raised one bale of hay. You can have a rainy day fund, or a stockpile of hay, which we did have two years ago, but when you're faced with these kind of situations year in and year out, you don't have that opportunity to have those stockpiles available every single year and we're hoping to survive the winter. Maybe the winter will turn out beneficial for us, and the conditions improve, and we can get our numbers back up for next year.

Clements: Bray adds they do have faith and will keep marching forward.

Bray: We've been dealing with these tough issues really for the last four years, and it's something that weighs on us every day. We have faith that that we're going to be okay. We just don't know what that means down the road. We're literally living year-to-year, trying to make a decision today that will allow us to keep trying next year.

Clements: Learn more at Micheal Clements, Washington. 

Editor's Note: This episode of Newsline is Part 2 of an ongoing series on the drought in the Western U.S. Each week, Newsline will feature the story of a farmer or rancher directly impacted by drought conditions. Listen to the first episode in the series here, or visit to learn more about how water access in the West has far-reaching effects for American agriculture as well as consumers near and far.

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