The University of Arizona

Background | CLIMAS

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Background

The prolonged sequences of dry and wet years that are common in the region, interspersed with high year-to-year variability, present substantial challenges to ranchers and range managers. Most of the state’s cattle ranches rely solely on rain-fed range to support their herds. Drought conditions can result in significant declines in forage production and nutritional quality. Failure to respond to these changes with appropriate management can compound the effects of drought on already stressed vegetation, resulting in poor range and animal condition. In the 1990s, Arizona experienced two severe droughts and at least as many years of high moisture conditions. As a consequence of diminished winter rains in 1995–1996, many ranchers did not have enough forage to support their cattle. The persistence of dry conditions forced some ranchers to resort to emergency coping strategies while other ranchers left the industry entirely.