The Triple Dip La Nina weather pattern calls for another dry winter season. A system that brings late-season rain through the summer months isn’t enough to lift Montana out of a never-ending drought.
Montana cattle farmers like DeBruycker Charolais are feeling the effects as winter approaches.
“The water supply can also be a problem in certain areas as the springs dry up,” said Brett DeBruycker, a purebred Charoleis cattle ranch in Choteau.
Coping with a poor year for hay, pasture and water has been a headache for farmers.
“Besides getting through the summer, trying to find enough grass and water. You know, no matter how dry this winter is, we have little autumn grazing.”
Fall and winter pastures for DeBruycker’s herd have been sparse. Some of his herd sits in a pasture north of Choteau, costing more than his pocket.
“…in winter, when it’s so cold, it’s quite difficult to carry water. It is also difficult to carry water in summer. Actually, it’s just, you know, it’s just not a viable option. But in winter, you almost have to find a place with some water. And the sad part of that is, you know, you’re leaving the grass that exists elsewhere because there’s no water there. You know, you can stay in places with water for a very long time.”
Aquasource Drilling in Great Falls deals with water system problems all winter long. A big problem manufacturers face is frozen water systems.
Tyrel Hlavnicka, owner of Aquasource Drilling, says they’ve had zero calls about freezing water systems, but recently they’ve started reaching winter temperatures.
“Check your systems before they freeze. This is the biggest advice.”
What many people don’t realize, he says, is that when snow flies, it doesn’t fix its already dry state.
“…the winter months and a lot of people don’t realize how dry it can be because of the snow on the ground. Winter is the driest time of the year for groundwater because it’s all frozen here. Not underground.”
Digging new or deeper wells is a solution for people who struggle with water in the winter. It is important to note that water below the surface does not freeze, when water is pumped to the surface, pipes, tanks and pressure systems can freeze solid, burst or the pressure systems can fail.
If any of these things happen, it’s not easy to fix.
“If a short, simple visit is too simple for us, it can be a few hundred dollars. And it just stopped working. Or if things were neglected all last winter and never emptied and no one checked on it, it could be a whole new installation costing $10,000.
A $10,000 bill to fix a water system isn’t always in producers’ budgets, but Hlavnicka shared a Winter Water System checklist to avoid potential trouble:
· Inspect pump houses in advance.
· Check that pump houses are properly insulated to ensure minimum cold air enters the system and freezes the pipes.
· Check pressure systems.
· Check backup water heaters and fix problems before it’s too late.
Being an entrepreneur is the beginning of solving a problem that will not be solved overnight. DeBruycker urges state and federal lawmakers (State Senators and State Representatives) to take the drought seriously.
“It is important that our legislators, senators and representatives at both the state and national level understand the dire situation we are in right now, not only in this part of Montana, but in western Montana as well. United States of America. You know it’s extremely important that we keep this cow herd as intact as possible.”
The Montana Department of Agriculture does not currently provide drought assistance in its system. We reached out to livestock producers to find out how they can help, and they said their county/region needs to be designated a disaster.
Follow these resources to become a producer and contact federal and state officials:
Senator Jon Tester, D – Montana: 119 1st Ave N #102, Great Falls, MT 59401
· Phone: 406-452-9585
Senator Steve Daines, R – Montana: 104 4th St N #302, Great Falls, MT 59401
· Phone: 406-453-0148
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R – Montana: 410 Central Avenue Suite 407, Great Falls, MT 59404
· Phone: 406-770-6260 Rep. Ryan Zinke, R – Montana: email@example.com
To contact a member of the State Senate and House of Representatives, go to: https://app.mt.gov/cgi-bin/filing/index.cgi?ACTION=LIST_LEG