Montana's 2000 Drought/Fire Survey Results
Released: September 21, 2000
For more information contact: us at 1-800-835-2612.
 
Montana Agricultural Statistics Service conducted a Drought and Fire Impact Survey at the request of Montana Department of Agriculture to assess the impact of this year's drought on farmers and ranchers across Montana. The survey determined that 84 percent of producers were adversely impacted by drought, while 16 percent of producers indicated they were not directly impacted by drought. All of the producers responding to the survey in Golden Valley, Petroleum, Pondera and Wheatland counties indicated they were adversely affected by drought. Approximately 95 percent of all producers reporting in the North Central, Central and South Cental districts of the state reported that they were adversely affected by drought. Seventy-four percent of producers in the northwest district, 81 percent in the southwest district, 85 percent in the south central district and 58 percent in the northeast district reported they were adversely effected. Very few producers in Daniels county reported being adversely affected by drought. A Golden Valley producers wrote, "We have never experienced such drought conditions of this magnitude. Creeks have completely dried up and some wells have quit. What a wreck!"

As of September first, 32 percent of ranchers reporting on the survey had to haul water for livestock for an average of 63 days for an average cost per day of $30. Many producers reported that if conditions do not improve, they will have to continue to haul water for livestock throughout the winter. Seven percent of operators had to haul water for households for an average of 57 days for an average cost of $9 per day. Because of drought many operators have had to drill wells and improve springs. Four percent of agricultural operators have had to drill new wells for household use at an average cost of $4,758. Twelve percent of ranchers and farmers have had to drill new wells for livestock and irrigation and 23 percent of producers reporting improved or developed springs for livestock.

Shortages of feed and water have left producers with choices of whether:
1. To ship livestock to alternate locations with better feed and water sources
  • To acquire more feed
  • To sell livestock

Fifty-six percent of producers reported that they had to move livestock to alternate locations because of shortages of feed and water. Many ranchers have grazed winter pastures and hay fields to make up the feed deficit. Producers also reported increased supplemental feeding requirements for the fall and winter. Ranchers estimate the need for all feed types to increase 29 percent from normal this year, with 26 percent more hay required.

Forty-two percent of ranchers reporting indicated that they have changed their marketing strategy because of the drought by reducing cattle and calf numbers by 17 percent, beef cow numbers by 14 percent, sheep and lamb numbers by 32 percent and equine numbers by 12 percent.

Farmers reported that drought reduced their irrigated alfalfa hay production by 39 percent, non irrigated alfalfa hay production by 82 percent, grain hay production by 41 percent, and wild hay production by 62 percent. The survey showed that hay production in Montana is comparable to 1988 hay production. Pasture and range conditions are also comparable to 1988. As of September 17, topsoil moisture was 98 percent short to very short and 2 percent adequate with subsoil moisture at 97 percent short to very short and 3 percent adequate.

The survey indicated that 5 percent of ranchers and farmers were impacted by fire, with 1.5 percent not sure if they had been impacted and 93.5 percent not impacted.
 
2000 Montana Drought/Fire Impact Survey
Drought impact on...
...livestock numbers
  • 42% of producers said inventory had changed due to drought.
  • 17% reduction of all cattle and calves.
  • 14% reduction of beef cows.
  • 32% reduction of sheep and lambs.
  • 12% reduction of equine.

... hay production
  • Comparable to 1988.
  • Irrigated alfalfa production reduced 39%.
  • Non-irrigated alfalfa production reduced 82%.
  • Grain hay production reduced 41%.
  • Wild hay production reduced 62%.
  • Some CRP was cut for hay.

...water resources
  • 4% of producers drilled new wells for household. Average cost $4,758.
  • 12% of producers drilled new wells for livestock or irrigation. Average cost $8,310.
  • 23% of producers developed new springs for livestock. Average cost $3,249.
...livestock
  • 56% producers moved livestock to alternative locations.
  • Average cost of moving livestock $4,169.
  • Many producers have used winter pastures and hay fields to graze livestock this summer.
  • Increased supplemental feeding requirement for fall and winter.

...livestock feeding
  • Producers estimated feed requirements for 2000.
  • 29% greater tonnage of all feed.
  • 26% greater for hay.
  • 14% greater for silage and haylage.
  • 44% greater for commercial feed.
  • 58% greater for other (straw, supplements, etc.)

...water resources
  • 32% of producers hauled water for livestock an average 63 days. Average cost per day $30.
  • 7% of producers hauled water for household an average 57 days. Average cost per day $9.
How many producers impacted by drought?
  • 84% (3,322) Impacted.
  • 16% (649) Not impacted.
Golden Valley: "We have never experienced such drought conditions of this magnitude. Creeks have completely dried up and some wells have quit. What a wreck!"

How many producers impacted by fire?
  • 5% of producers impacted.
  • 1.5% of producers not sure
  • 93.5% of producers not impacted.
  • $24,409 average value of structures lost.
  • $9,215 average value of fences lost.
  • $7,975 average value of cattle and calves lost.

Crop weather report for week ending September 17
  • Topsoil moisture deteriorated from last month to 67% very short, 31% short, and only 2% adequate.
  • Subsoil moisture deteriorated from last month to 70% very short, 27% short, and 3% adequate.

Pasture, range condition comparable to 1988
Granite: "Hot and dry, no water, no hay or grass."

Wheatland: "The drought will still be felt next year also because our range was over grazed this year."
Mailed to 15,000 producers--30% of producers returned questionnaires. Funded by Montana Department of Agriculture.
 
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