Lack of Rainfall Hurting Cattle Ranchers

POSTED: 04:50 AM PST Dec 24, 2013    UPDATED: 07:53 PM PDT Sep 19, 2013 
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SANTA MARIA, Calif. -

The lack of rainfall this year is hitting ranchers and growers hard throughout Santa Barbara County. Cattle ranchers are the hardest hit.

Paul Righetti is the owner of Paul Righetti Ranch Company in northern Santa Barbara County. "We’ve been running cattle, like I said, for four generations in Santa Barbara County and like I said, it's been a struggle here lately," said Righetti.

The hills where his cattle graze are bone dry. "Mother Nature just has not brought us a whole lot of water here of late, and usually in the winter time is when we get our feed and hope to get enough water to carry us on through to the end of the summer," said Righetti.

That hasn't happened for the last couple of years. Along with many ranchers, Righetti is feeling the water pinch, which means he has to spend more money to keep his business running.

"The price of livestock is doing well as far as the cattle, but so is the price of alfalfa," said Righetti.

For many parts of the county, 2012 and 2013 have ranked in the top five for the driest years in the last century. Some areas worse than others.

"Certain areas, especially the Santa Ynez, mid-county area and the Cuyama Valley are experiencing one of the driest years they have had in history," said Debbie Trupe, spokesperson for the agricultural commissioner’s office.

And ranchers like Righetti are hopeful the rain comes soon, or else it could mean goodbye.

"If it doesn't rain in the next few years, I guess we're going to have to liquidate some cattle and figure out what we’re going to do or relocate to where there is enough grass," said Righetti.