Ag Expo features drought lessons

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom Newspapers

Visitors attending the first day of the 15th annual New Mexico Ag Expo in Portales today can receive useful information on a common problem facing farmers and ranchers of the Southwest — drought.

New Mexico State University extension range management specialist Chris Allison will lead the seminar “Planning For the Next Drought” at 11 a.m. in the Yucca room of the Jake Lopez Community Center at the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds.

“When a drought hits, everybody is in the same boat in trying to get through it and survive the best they can,” Allison said.

Allison has had 28 years of experience at NMSU’s extension range management office and plans to discuss what conditions constitute a drought, the variable nature of precipitation in the Southwest, how to stock accordingly while trying to keep the forage supply and demand in balance, and how to set priorities in stocking and restocking.

“New Mexico, West Texas and into Arizona, it seems like we’re in a drought about two-thirds of the time,” Allison said.

Roosevelt County extension agent Floyd McAlister agreed.

“This state probably has more dry years than we have wet years,” McAlister said. “We have so many dry years that (this information is very important,” McAlister said. “It’s something they need to consider and keep foremost in their minds.”

Allison will also be presenting drought historical statistics and records that go back more than 90 years.

“You always want to think that there is some kind of cycle going on here,” Allison said. “And there could be. It’s hard to say. We look back on the severity of droughts that we’ve had in the past compared to what we’ve got now, and how we handled those droughts with stocking decisions.”

Allison will also compare and contrast some of the worst droughts this region has seen.

For example, Allison said the drought of the 1950s, one of the worst in history, isn’t any worse than recent droughts of the 2000s, but the level of damage done to the range was much worse in the 1950s.

“People are doing a much better job (of range management during a drought) than they were,” Allison said.