Monday, November 21, 2016

Hat Creek rancher encouraged as rain improves range

As I reported recently, the rain that Northern California has received this fall has been a welcome sight for ranchers, improving rangeland and non-irrigated pasture ground. One of those upbeat ranchers is Henry Giacomini, owner of the Hat Creek Grown grass-finished beef operation.

From the latest edition of the CFBF's AgAlert:
In Shasta County, rancher Henry Giacomini noted that Redding had the third-wettest October on record, giving a huge boost to winter pastures and native feed in the foothills. The amount of rain has also brought stock water to those pastures, allowing him to move some cattle there.

Giacomini said he did not have to reduce his own herd during the drought, but he did cut back on his hay production so that more of that land could be grazed, which lowered his income.

Although some California ranchers may be reluctant to grow their herds at this time, he noted that U.S. cattle numbers are increasing, with many of those animals yet to hit the market, and that could put more pressure on the market. If lower prices curtail expansion nationwide, whereby ranchers aren't retaining their heifers for replacement, that will keep pressure on the market for potentially two to three years, he added.

Depending on the rancher's situation, Giacomini pointed out that lower cattle prices also present "a pretty opportunistic time to expand, if you've got cash flow to do it." In his operation, there is not extra forage for him to expand much, but he said he might try to improve his herd by culling harder and replacing his lower-performing cattle.

"For the most part, we're going to hold steady," Giacomini said.

He said even though many California cattle ranchers were forced to reduce their herds during the drought and couldn't take full advantage of several years of strong cattle prices, they would have had a tougher time if the cattle market had not been so good.

"In a way, at least the market held us together," he said. "People who had to liquidate got paid well for it."

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