September 19, 2023

Utah Department of Agriculture hopes to connect ranchers with hay

Faced with the impact of Utah’s exceptional drought, some cattle ranchers are looking to sell.

Hay — which is a heavy user of water — is hard to come by, said state agriculture commissioner Craig Buttars. Some ranchers in the state are looking to sell their cattle herds to its downfall. This could impact Utah’s food supply down the road.

“What we will see is disruption, if we see a lot of cattle coming to market this fall and then a year or two later we will see shortages,” he said during a recent interview.

To help ranchers stay afloat, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has set up a website to facilitate connections between farmers who still grow hay during the drought and ranchers who need it. Many farmers have harvested hay and called it good for the year, while others are still trying. The site may also facilitate out-of-state purchases.

The website has just been launched, but Commissioner Buttars said he hopes it can at least help some agricultural producers during the drought.

“I heard there had been online hookups that would help a bit,” he said.

The website can be found here.

The entire state is in drought, but much of Utah is now in the worst drought categories – extreme and exceptional. Governor Spencer Cox called on Utahns to conserve and reduce outdoor watering.

The agricultural industry, which is a large user of water, has also had to make changes. According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, farmers have 75% less water this year than last year. Some farmers are making changes to maximize water savings, including lining canals, modifying sprinklers, and using different planting techniques.