Drought conditions evaporating Hawaii's cattle industry

Published On: Dec 23 2013 11:09:21 PM HST   Updated On: Aug 23 2013 07:25:49 PM HST

Green pastures are hard to find in Leeward Maui.

Some Hawaii farmers say this year's drought is the worst they've seen.

The extremely dry conditions on Maui and the Big Island have lead to a local beef shortage.

"We need security and it's hard when mother nature steps in and decides it's not going to rain," saud Chris Manfredi, Chair of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

According to the latest drought numbers mother nature hasn't rain much in leeward Maui and Big Island.

Those areas are under severe or extreme drought conditions.

No rain means no grass for cows, no grass for cows means ranchers have to export their livestock.   

"Because without the feed, the grass, they need to take their stock down and it basically devastates those ranchers." said Scott Enright of the Department of Agriculture. "The industry is experiencing a downturn."

That downturn is hurting Maui Cattle Company which has reduced production by almost 80 percent.

"If we go back six years ago we were doing 45 to 50 head (of cattle) a week," said Alex Franco of Maui Cattle Co. "And now we're at the point where we're doing ten a week."

The conglomerate of five ranchers can no longer supply some of their clients like restaurants and grocery stores.

What little they can sell costs more, sometimes more than 10 percent.

And it's not just Maui livestock suffering. Big Island beef has taken a hit as well.

"We are trying to build the local beef brand and supplies start to dwindle that can create gaps in the supply chain," said Manfredi. "It can stunt our growth in the terms of branding local beef."

However local farmers are getting some help.

Governor Abercrombie recently signed a  bill to improve the state's irrigation systems and now the Department of Agriculture is looking at long term options to help ranchers.

"We know we will experience climate change in Hawaii and the department has been putting through legislation to help us with that," Enright said.      

In addition to the drought, ranchers  have to deal with the axis deer which competes with the pasture cattle need to eat.

Big Island and Maui ranchers say they need all the help they can get as they try to bare through those obstacles.


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