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California drought impacting pro rodeo circuit

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

California's historic drought is taking its toll on the pro rodeo circuit, too, as higher feed and watering costs threaten to eat into rodeos' profits and force them to raise ticket prices to make ends meet.

REDDING, Calif. — As the annual pro rodeo is set to take place here May 14-17, organizers have more than just big crowds and buckin’ broncs to worry about.

Much as it is with other livestock-related industries in California, drought is complicating matters for the rodeo circuit, too. Redding Rodeo organizers fear rising feed costs for horses and rough stock could eventually force rodeos to raise ticket prices to make ends meet.

“It started last year,” ranch owner Rick Williams said of drought’s impacts on rodeos. “They’re not getting moisture in the mountains, so we’re not getting hay like we used to. Everyone’s out.”

Williams said he’s paid up to $18 per bale of hay recently, whereas a couple of years ago the price was $10 or $11 per bale.

“Where it ends up costing us money is stock contractors have to charge us more,” said Williams, a member of the Redding Rodeo Association. “It all rolls downhill. In the end, it’s the consumer that’s going to pay for it. If the cost of production goes up, it’s going to impact ticket sales.”

Another potential source of rising cost is water, said Alex Garibay, the rodeo association’s president. As many communities adopt strict water controls, rodeos could face extra charges for the water it takes to maintain an arena at the pro rodeo circuit’s standards, he said.

“We’ve got to pay just like everyone else does for water,” Garibay said. “It could be a rough situation for us.”

The difficulties come as California’s historic drought has prompted many beef and dairy producers to trim their herds to cut down on feed costs. A statewide University of California survey earlier this year found that more than one-third of ranchers expect devastating impacts to their operations if drought conditions persist.

But trimming the herd isn’t really an option for rodeo rough stock producers. John Growney, whose Red Bluff, Calif.-based Growney Brothers Rodeo Co. provides bulls and bucking horses to about 20 West Coast pro rodeos a year, said many committees try to help stock contractors get through the hard times.

On the bright side, Growney said the nice weather that results from a lack of rainfall has brought bigger crowds out to rodeos, which helps their gate receipts.

“It’s something we’re living with and something we’re always going to live with,” Growney said of dry years.


Redding Rodeo: http://www.reddingrodeo.com

Growney Brothers Rodeo Co.:



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