Some Arizona ranchers are likely celebrating this fall thanks to higher rainfall totals in some areas of the state during the 2006 Arizona summer monsoon (rainy) season. The increased moisture means increased vegetation available for consumption by range-fed beef cattle and reduced needs for purchased feed. That combination pockets more money in the ranchers’ wallet in these days of razor-thin margins.

The latest crunched numbers from the National Agricultural Statistic’s Service-Arizona office (NASS) shows overall state range and pasture conditions in good to fair condition.

“In August, we had a really good monsoon season,” according to NASS-Arizona’s Deputy Director Dave DeWalt. “Range and pasture conditions have improved significantly since mid-August. Some people say range conditions are the best they’ve seen in ages.” He said monsoon rainfall was especially higher in southeast Arizona.

The Oct. 22-released report showed 43 percent of range and pasture lands in fair condition, 34 percent as good, 14 percent excellent, 5 percent poor and 4 percent very poor. NASS had consistently rated conditions over the last few months in the poor to very poor range.

DeWalt defined range and pasture rating terms including: excellent - providing feed in excess of needs; good – adequate feed supplies; fair – adequate feed supplies but less than normal; poor – only marginal feed is available and supplemental feeding is required; and very poor – little or no feed is available and supplemental feeding is required.

Since Jan. 1, 2006, four Arizona towns have seen the rain gauge exceed normal rainfall levels including Marana, Ariz. - 128 percent of normal, Tucson, Ariz. and Canyon De Chelly - 111 of normal and Safford, Ariz. - 109 percent. Towns with the lowest precipitation since Jan. 1 included Yuma, Ariz. - 30 percent of normal, Winslow – 40 percent of normal, and Prescott - 49 percent.

In cotton news, NASS reported cotton harvesting at 34 percent complete statewide. Cotton crop conditions were rated 46 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 10 percent excellent, and 9 percent poor.

The alfalfa harvest was active on more than half of the state’s alfalfa fields. Conditions were rated 43 percent fair, 27 percent good, 13 percent excellent, 16 percent poor and 1 percent very poor.

e-mail: cblake@farmpress.com