Wyoming farmers and ranchers are seeing some of the best crop and pasture conditions in years thanks to good snowfall last winter and above-average rainfall this summer.
"We've seen a big turnaround coming out of January 2013 to December of 2013," said Rhonda Brandt, state statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service. "It was almost a complete turnaround as far as moisture availability, and it has continued since then. 2014 has been well above normal precipitation."
In Cheyenne, for example, 13.66 inches of rain fell from Jan. 1 through Sept. 2. That's more than an inch above normal.
"The southeast corner of the state is where the wheat ground is, corn for grain," Brandt said. "The small grains have been harvested, oats and barley. But the other field crops — corn, dry beans and sugar beets — those have yet to be harvested, and getting moisture this time of year really helps those crops fill to their full production potential."
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service report released Sept. 2, 78 percent of Wyoming's pastures are in either good or excellent condition. That compares with just 24 percent at this same time last year.
"I'm shocked at that; that's huge," Brandt told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. "I only moved to Wyoming at the end of last fall, but I grew up in northeast Colorado, and I don't remember Wyoming being this green."
Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels are also in great shape.
Brandt said that will be a big help as the state moves into the winter wheat season.
Haley Lockwood, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said ranchers throughout the state have been enjoying the great pasture conditions coupled with strong beef cattle prices.
"They always joke that there are three different things ranchers worry about: livestock prices, having enough water and whether they have to buy hay," Lockwood said. "This year, livestock prices are high, they have lots of rain, and because of that, a lot of people won't have to worry about buying hay this year."
While ranchers have been enjoying this year's moisture and high beef prices, the turnaround hasn't necessarily translated to their profit margins — at least, not yet.
Mark Eisele, who runs a ranch west of Cheyenne, said that while his cattle are looking good, it's still going to take a while for his and other ranches to fully absorb the damage done by the last year's drought.
"The real problem most of us are facing is a deficit on our agriculture income because we've had to buy so much hay and liquidate livestock (during the drought)," Eisele said. "It'll take some folks four or five years to get back in the saddle again."
He also noted that prices for diesel and other products needed by ranchers have risen.
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com