Northern Montana east of the Rockies experienced one of the driest Decembers on record. That lack of moisture coupled with warmer-than-usual temperatures has ranchers concerned that their cattle and sheep will have inadequate pastureland water this year. Ranchers count on rainwater and melted snow runoff to fill creeks and earth-dammed gullies to provide water for their grazing livestock.
One rancher has resorted to running a two-mile pipeline from a well near his barn to cattle wintering in a distant meadow, while others are looking for natural springs and digging new wells to make water available to their cattle.
But ranchers' worries extend beyond water availability. If the dry weather continues, fields may not have enough moisture to produce plant growth to feed livestock.