Ample spring rains renew rangelands

Tim Hearden/Capital Press A driver thinks better of trying to cross a flooded section of a county road near Gerber, Calif., after heavy storms in March.

Cold spring delays growth, but farmers cheered by weather

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Heavy spring rains have left most of California's rangelands in good or excellent condition, according to a government report.

Supplemental feeding of livestock has declined in recent weeks because grasslands are lush and green, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

Cattle weight gains continued to improve as a result of the verdant vegetation, though milk production was tempered by unseasonably cool and wet conditions, NASS reported.

Kevin Kester, a Parkfield, Calif., rancher and president of the California Cattlemen's Association, has seen flourishing rangelands in recent weeks as he's traveled the state to meet with other ranchers.

"Our producers are in a pretty good mood right now" with the abundant rainfall and cattle markets flirting with all-time highs, Kester said.

"It has been a cold spring," he said. "The grass is set up to be in pretty good shape, but it's still behind because of the cold spring. Grasses will finish off growing for springtime, and producers are pretty happy about it."

The conditions mark a turnaround from two years ago, when about 85 percent of grazing land in California was rated as poor or very poor.

The bill of health for livestock came amid a NASS report that outlined impacts on various crops from the March storms, which filled reservoirs to the brim while giving some areas nearly double their normal amount of rainfall for the month.

Heavy rainfall delayed field work in many areas, though harvests of navel and Valencia oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, lemons, broccoli and asparagus continued, NASS reported.

The March storms prompted the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to promise at least 65 percent of normal water deliveries to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Farms north of the delta will receive their total contract supply.

Rain and snow have tapered off in April, though many areas are still above their normal rainfall totals for the season and California's snowpack remains at 167 percent of normal.

The rain may be virtually over for much of the state. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center shows a below-normal probability of rain south of Sacramento, while northern areas have a 50-50 chance of exceeding their normal rainfall for this time of year.

April rainfall

April and seasonal precipitation totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of April 12:

Eureka: Month to date 0.84 inches (normal 1.33 inches); season to date 39.18 inches (normal 34.25 inches)

Redding: Month to date 0.02 inches (normal 1.12 inches); season to date 30.28 inches (normal 29.89 inches)

Sacramento: Month to date a trace (normal 0.53 inches); season to date 21.4 inches (normal 16.71 inches)

Modesto: Month to date 0.03 inches (normal 0.46 inches); season to date 13.13 inches (normal 11.99 inches)

Salinas: Month to date 0.08 inches (normal 0.49 inches); season to date 14.62 inches (normal 12.15 inches)

Fresno: Month to date 0.32 inches (normal 0.42 inches); season to date 15.26 inches (normal 10.27 inches)

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