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Montana snowstorm brought moisture, but not as much as farmers hoped

Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 13, 2022

BILLINGS — The late-season snow brought some much-needed moisture to farmers and ranchers across Montana, with the week's storm dumping more than a foot of snow in some places, but it may not be as beneficial as many hoped.

"Montana is a tough country. Any little bit of moisture you can get helps the grass," said Jenny Moke, who works at Redland Red Angus ranch in Hysham.

Cows at Redland Red Angus ranch in Hysham on Wednesday get used to snow that fell overnight.

Any moisture is good moisture as far as farmers and ranchers are concerned.

Moke's ranch in Hysham raises 1,000 head of cattle. They saw 18 inches of snow in some places on Wednesday.

"Everybody we talked to from here to North Dakota and further was really hoping for moisture. And it sounds like it was a pretty widespread storm. So I'm hoping everybody got good moisture out of this to make the grass come," Moke said.

Cows and calves at Redland Red Angus ranch in Hysham hunker down from the cold.

How much did the recent snow affect the drought outlook? Turns out it did make a positive impact, but not as much as you might imagine.

The mountains received less snow than many had hoped. Snow pack in the mountains was about three-quarters of normal before the storm, and the storm did bump up the totals, but only by a few percentage points. Billings only got three-tenth of an inch of moisture from its 13 inches of snowfall.

The majority of the state is still staring down the barrel of drought this summer.

"We rely on the snow pack in the mountains, which a lot of this storm didn't get where we needed," said Darren Miller, a Billings farmer.

Cows on Darren Miller's farm in Billings make their way to the trough for a meal on Wednesday.

Miller grows barley, corn, alfalfa and raises a few head of cattle west of town.

"We were going into a dry winter and conditions were dry. A lot of the spring work has been done in the fields, but we needed some moisture to get some crops up," Miller said.

While it didn't bring much moisture, Miller said he is hopeful the cold temps the storm brought with it will help retain the snow in the mountains a bit longer, so water will be available in the heat of the summer.

"It also brings along with it cool temperatures. With the cooler temperatures, it makes the spring runoff a little slower and we retain that moisture in the mountains a little longer for later in the season when we really need it," Miller said.

A child shares some love with a newborn calf at Redland Red Angus ranch in Hysham.

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