Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:00 PM
Tim Hearden/Capital Press
Cattle roam on green grass in Cottonwood, Calif., on Dec. 17. Copious amounts of rain in Northern California have vastly improved conditions of rangelands.
Totals above average; more moisture expected
By TIM HEARDEN
RED BLUFF, Calif. -- A veritable smorgasbord of rainfall and low-elevation snow this fall has kept the Golden State's rangelands replenished with at least enough moisture to get through the winter.
Most of California remained wet last week as the main jet stream centered over the state, moving several weather systems through. More rain is expected in northern and central California this weekend, and a series of storms is expected to pepper the state until after New Year's Day.
All the rain has livestock producers elated, said Josh Davy, a University of California Cooperative Extension livestock advisor here.
"It's been nice to start the year with some big rains because it fills up the reservoirs, puts some drinking water out there and it helps build deeper soil moisture in case it doesn't rain later," Davy said. "We hope it keeps going until March."
The steady rain has helped many areas build on what have been some impressive seasonal totals. Redding sopped up 1.17 inches of rain last weekend, bringing this month's total to 4.29 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The average for December there is 3.03 inches.
Since July 1, Redding has received 13.41 inches of rainfall, well above the 10.52 inches normally registered by this time of year.
Sacramento has also received well above its seasonal normal rainfall total, having recorded 8.11 inches since July 1 compared to an average of 5.03 inches by this time of year, according to the weather service.
The precipitation prompted improvement in range and pasture just as cattle were being moved to lower elevations, noted a crop report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento.
The weather has helped fields, too, as small grains crops continue to emerge. The crop rated mostly good to excellent, according to NASS. Meanwhile, cooler temperatures have improved external maturity of navel oranges in the San Joaquin Valley.
The rainfall has helped much of Northern California emerge from drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Parts of the southern San Joaquin Valley are still in severe drought, but conditions have shown some improvement, the government reports.
The rainy autumn and start of winter in Northern California marks a contrast of sorts with last year, when a dry spell that started in mid-November caused grasslands to deteriorate. Some ranchers took cattle off rangelands and brought in water and feed for their animals.
Having healthy forage lands and ample stock water supplies is critical for controlling ranchers' input costs. As a result of this year's improved conditions, livestock on grass have required less supplemental feed, NASS reported.
NASS California Crop Weather: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/20121217crpw.pdf
U.S. Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
UCCE Tehama County: http://cetehama.ucanr.edu/