Rain Poses Unique Challenges for Ranchers

Sep 21, 2015

Credit K. Kendall / Flickr

It's been a rainy summer for Maui.  Nine tropical storm systems have approached the islands so far this season, often bringing heavy downpours.  The rain has helped ease some of the drought conditions in southeast Maui, but for ranchers, it also brings a new set of problems.  Eileen Chao has more from The Maui News.

Rain may be good for farmers, but the sporadic "off and on" downpours Maui has seen in the last two months have some ranchers on edge.  Kaupo Ranch Manager Billy Ferreira said his cattle need to adjust to eating the green, moist grass.  In the short term, the high moisture content of the "washy feed" could upset the stomachs of cattle.

What concerns him most is that the heavy rains now means a drier winter later.  Meteorologists say rain during the normally dry summer is likely the result of the El Nino effect that typically causes wetter-than-normal summers and drier winters. Ranchers like Ferreira worry a very dry winter could last until spring.

August saw record-breaking rainfall in West Maui, Upcountry and Central Maui neighborhoods.  A gauge at Kahului Airport recorded 2.34 inches of rain for the month, wiping out the old record of 1.77 inches set in 1914. The August rain was enough rain to reduce Kaupo's severe drought to moderate drought levels.  Residents in the area had been ordered to conserve water since June.  Despite the recent rain, they are still urged to conserve water to prepare for the possibly parched winter.