City water supplies cattle along Smoky Hill River
By MIKE CORN
PFEIFER -- A river runs through it, but Bruce Arnhold still must make the drive here from Hays several times each week to fill up two galvanized steel stock tanks.
The city of Russell's No. 2 well supplies the water for him.
It's all part of a lease agreement, letting Russell draw up the water for its residents. Arnhold gets cash and the right to use water in a drought.
"Kind of sad when you've got the Smoky Hill River and you've got to pump from the city of Russell," Arnhold said as he watched the water flow into the smaller of two tanks not far from the red and blue city water well.
It's not the first time he's done it since purchasing the pasture in 1988.
He was forced to turn to water from the city well in 1990 and 2006, as well as this year.
Arnhold, whose farm is headquartered in Hays, prefers letting his cattle drink as they please out of the Smoky Hill, because it relieves him of the danger of his herd running out of water.
"Now, since late July, I've been coming over every few days," Arnhold said.
Not only has he watched the river water dry up and disappear, but he's also watched the flow from the city well dwindle as well.
"I don't think I'm getting the stream I used to get," he said, pointing to a 2-inch piece of pipe. "It used to shoot out across half the tank."
Saturday, a steady flow came from the pipe, but it quickly fell into the tank.
It's better than being forced to haul water, he said.
Arnhold said he received approximately 1.5 inches of moisture in last week's rain.
"I think all my rain gauges all dry-rotted out," he said. "I hope it livens things up. Hopefully, this will soften up some of this grass."
He paused, looking around at conditions surrounding him.
"This is my best pasture," he said.
Arnhold's been able to hold on to his cattle, and he has carryover feed for this winter.
"I can't start feeding too early," Arnhold said.
"They're pretty content over here."
He's struggling to hang on to his herd, though, after being forced to sell some cattle in 2006.
Rather than buy back, he's gradually been building up his herd by keeping calves.
But he's been helping the veterinarian at both Plainville and La Crosse sale barns.
"The number of cattle coming through," he said, "I've never seen that before."
Even with recent rains, more still is needed.
"I don't like to work in snow," he said. "But we might have to have a change in season to break the cycle."