Farmers report ‘spotty’ harvests

By Chris Schmaedeke: Freedom New Mexico

It mattered where the location was for this year’s harvest in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties.

All three counties saw ups and downs this year. The word used most to describe the harvest was “spotty.”

Quay County struggled with lack of water and dry conditions.

“Farmers had very little water,” Tom Dominguez, Quay County Extension Office agricultural agent, said. “Not getting water from Conchas Lake really hurt.”

Ranchers and farmers in year’s past have gotten irrigation water from Conchas Lake but this year the lake did not fill to a high enough level and no water was allowed for farmers’ use.

Hay crops and beef were the best crops for the county in a down year according to Dominguez. Dominguez feels beef is very important to the Quay County community.

“Cattle was fair to decent,” Dominguez said. “Just like the crops it was very spotty.”

Quay County rancher Tom Sidwell took a different approach this year with cattle prices being low at the moment. He is going to hold on to his calves until the first of the year and see where the prices end up.

“Historically prices go up at the first of the year,” Sidwell said. “We are holding our calves back and going to put a little more weight on them.”

Sidwell’s JX Ranch, owned with his wife, Mimi, was able to dodge the water problem. He said the ranch was four inches lower than they should be but were still able to grow good grass for the cattle.

Corn and cotton were strong in Curry County but it mattered where the farms were located on the map. Dry land farming in the area was hit or miss.

“We had one field produce 6,000 pounds,” Stan Jones, Curry County Extension Office agricultural agent, said. “But we had some that barely produced much at all.”

Rainfall in Curry County was as spotty as the harvest, Jones said. In July, Curry County had plenty of moisture but other months were not so lucky. Jones said rainfall amounts were all over the spectrum.

“I had rain gauges on my own land that would be up to an inch different,” Jones said.

In Roosevelt County, farmers and ranchers also struggled with low amounts of rainfall but also had success in areas.

“We had dry conditions this year,” Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County Extension Office agricultural agent, said. “Rainfall was very spotty. Rainfall is really the great equalizer.”

Kircher said peanuts and chilies were fair this year. He felt that nothing really “hit a homerun” this year though.

“We really didn’t have anything that did anything,” Kircher said.

Prices and the lack of rainfall also hurt cattle ranchers in Roosevelt County. The cattle market fell back with the low prices and ranchers struggling to grow grass in the dry conditions.

“All in all this was a down market this year,” Kircher said.

Chili farmer Rick Leadbetter saw it differently as his harvest was a “pretty good chili crop.” Leadbetter was in process of harvesting this year’s crop when the recent snowstorm hit and slowed them down. He is hoping to be able to finish up next week.

“We had very few problems with the rainfall,” Leadbetter said. “Everybody I talked to seemed to have a good year.”