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Recent rains have blessed the area

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Northwest Nebraska was blessed the final few days of May with some significant rains that improved nearly everyone’s attitudes, and particularly those of farmers and ranchers.

Much of the area received approximately two inches on May 29 and 30, breaking, at least for the time being, a dry spell that had lasted two years. Unfortunately, some gauges measured less than that, but others had around 2 ½ and areas in southern Dawes County received around three inches, counting a good dousing in places this past Saturday night.

One rancher called the late May weather “a million dollar rain” and a second said it was “a lifesaver.” Another comment was, “It had been terribly dry until then.”

With the late spurt, May turned out to a fairly wet month. KCSR Radio website said 3.20 inches of precipitation was measured in May, bringing the total through the first five months of the year to 6.44 inches. Chadron Radio also reports that another half inch has fallen through the first week of June.

Del Hussey, who lives about eight miles south of Chadron, said his gauge caught exactly four inches of precip in May. A total of 1.33 inches arrived Sunday and Monday, May 29 and 30 and another .92 on Tuesday, May 31.

Hussey said he also received an inch on May 9 and showers totaling about three-tenths on May 20 and 23 that were beneficial because, in his words, “they kept things from drying up when they were growing and really needed moisture.”

Through May, Hussey said his gauge measured 8.48 inches of moisture. Through the first five months a year ago, Hussey’s records showed 10.36 inches of precipitation, but only a little over six inches the rest of the year. Prior to that in recent years, his five-month totals were 2020—6.10, 2019—10.67, 2018—8.81 (when the end of the year total was 23.41) and 2017—10.30.

Eldon and Janett Wohlers, who farm and ranch about eight miles west of Crawford, said they received two inches of rain the last three days of May and a total of 6.3 for the year, to go with about 20 inches of snow this year, but never more than six inches at a time.

“At least with this last moisture, the grass will grow for a while and may make some first cutting hay,” Janett said. She added they received 1.4 inches of rain on May 9, but noted, “We were on the edge of drying up before these last rains came.”

Jack Arterburn of Rushville, the extension beef educator for Northwest Nebraska, said there’s no way to put a dollar figure on the latest precipitation, adding, “it will sure go a long ways.”

Arterburn said it came at a good time, before the cool season grasses that make up at least 50 percent of the pastures in this area had matured.

“Our grasses may still be short, but this will help a lot,” he noted. “They’ll really grow now and the forecast indicates that off and on we could get some more this week. However, they say we’re still under the influence of the El Nino pattern.”

Because of the below freezing temperatures in the area a few nights in May, there has been concern that the alfalfa and wheat crops may have been harmed. Arterburn called it “a wait and see situation,” but added he hadn’t heard of any definite damage.

With the price of wheat topping $11 a bushel last week in Hemingford, Arterburn noted, “It would be a bummer to miss out on a good wheat crop this year.”

Colt Foster, grain originator at Farmer’s Co-op in Hemingford, said the combination of last year’s drought in the nation’s midsection and into Montana and North Dakota, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have sent the price of wheat to some of the highest levels ever.

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