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Jul 27, 2012 9:27 AM by Angela Douglas - Q2 News

Broadview rancher: 'Driest by far I've ever seen'

BROADVIEW - Montana is currently experiencing one of the most severe droughts in its history.

"It's the driest by far I've ever seen it," said Broadview area rancher, Brian Heiken.

Heiken isn't alone. Farmers and rancher across the state are suffering from record-breaking heat and little moisture.

Many of them are now facing a feed shortage.

"We usually hay about 3,000 acres," explained Heiken. "This year we hayed 700 I think."

That's where the Conservation Reserve Program land comes into play. It's land that is set aside for conservation reasons, but when an emergency situation arises it can be used for haying and grazing.

Last year the Heikens produced 5,000 bails of hay. Compare that to this year, those same hay fields only produced about 500 bails of hay. But with the help of CRP lands they were able to increase that number to 2,000.

"It's very crucial," Heiken stated. "Our hay fields were almost nothing. Most of them were unharvestable. And our grazing was the same way."

The quality of CRP land tends to be pretty low, which means the feed isn't rich in nutrients, but according Heiken that's an easy problem to fix.

"You just have to have the tonage to fill the cow up to begin with," he said. "You can always supplement her."

With the leftover hay from last year combined with the hay from his neighbor's CRP land, Heiken's cattle will be fed through the winter. Regardless, Heiken is anxious for some moisture.

"Hopefully we catch some rain one of these times," Heiken stated. "This is one reason why we need the CRP hay. We had a lot left over, but we'll use most of it. But if it would come out again like this next year, then a guy would get in trouble."

In the meantime, Heiken and his family will do what all ranching families do: continue working hard and planning for the future.

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