RICH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) — The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food confirmed on Thursday that “extreme flooding” in Rich County has impacted ranchers and their livestock along Bear River.

UDAF officials say that about 20 to 30 ranches along the Bear River have been impacted by flooding. Cattle have been evacuated as a result to avoid rising water. Ranchers are expecting to spend another $18,000-$25,000 per ranch on feeding costs and $2,500-$5,000 to relocate cattle.

Additional costs have been incurred to divert water and create high ground for cattle to stand on, UDAF officials said. Some cattle have reportedly gone missing, and UDAF is working to confirm the numbers.

“After many difficult years of drought and an extremely hard winter, these ranchers are now experiencing some of the worst flooding ever seen in Rich County,” said UDAF Commissioner Craig Buttars. “Our department is working to do everything we can to help these ranchers and set up resources for others who may experience hardships due to flooding.”

Rich County Commissioner Sim Weston is a rancher himself, and he said this spring has been devastating for his animals as he had just lost about 100 calves.

“We didn’t feel the weight of it until we started calving in mid-March,” Weston said. “We hired a dozer to push snow away so they have a dry place to lay and have their calves, but we were still losing many calves every night.”

About 20 to 30 percent of the calves in Rich County froze this spring, Weston said. He added that roughly 50,000 calves are sold out of the county every fall, and the flooding will greatly impact the numbers.

“I feel bad that so many people have lost so many cattle because the break-even point is so narrow in this business,” Weston said.

UDAF is working with the Department of Emergency Management to address these emerging concerns among the ranchers in Rich County.

On Monday, May 1, the mayor of Garden City, a town in northwestern Rich County, declared a local state of emergency as a result of flooding.

Leonhardt asked Utahns who own homes in the town to make a trip to Garden City before it’s too late. According to Leonhardt, 75 to 80 percent of residences in town are vacation homes or short-term rentals. With less than 1,000 full-time residents, resources are limited, and the town has to focus on protecting infrastructure first.   

“My heart goes out to the farmers, especially in south county,” Leonhardt said. “The Bear River is rising, and they are losing so many cattle. That’s huge for our area as well.”