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Cochise County rancher uses adaptable cows to survive high temperatures, lack of rain

Cochise County rancher uses adaptable cows to survive high temperatures, lack of rain
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jul 27, 2023

MCNEAL, Ariz. (KGUN) — The higher temperatures and lack of rain is having effect on ranchers. But the cows and other animals don't seem to mind.

“The nice thing about these cattle we raise, they adapt their behavior quite a bit to the environmental conditions," said owner of 47 Ranch, Dennis Moroney. "So when it’s hot they may be very much inactive.”

Moroney, owns a 24,000 acre ranch in McNeal. He purchased 15 Criollo cows in 2010, after hearing how they are better suited for the hot and dry climate.

“I think they’re just really smart about how they handle things,” McNeal said. “They have a long history of being connected with people living in desert environments”

Moroney said Criollo cows originated in parts of Africa, with similar heat to what southern Arizona has. He decided to create a herd, knowing they would be able to survive and withstand the climate at his ranch.

“Ironically if you look at a globe, where we are is in the same general latitude as that region where these cattle came from,” Moroney said.

One of the ways they keep from overheating is by changing their diet, depending on the season. Moroney said he was surprised to see them eating prickly pear cactus and mesquite from their pastures.

“Our cattle are just changing their diet based on what’s available and what their bio feedback tells them what they need,” he said.

Because the cows come from hot climates, Moroney says the concern during this time of year is the water supply.

“The main fragile resource on the ranch is water,” he said. “We’re always having to pay attention to the water.”

There are "dirt tanks" that collect runoff water and rain water throughout the property, but they are quickly drying up. Moroney said the cows are enjoying what's left and the little rain they had a few weeks ago.

“The cow was out in the water, up to her shoulders," he said. "You could tell she was just cooling off.”

Most of the water used on the ranch come from different wells on the property. Moroney says they check on the water supply almost daily to make sure the cows have enough.

“Higher heat means higher water consumption on the part of the animal," he said. "It means more demand on the water infrastructure.”

Moroney said he thinks ranchers are going to have to adapt to the climate change like his cows.

“I think the western livestock or the southwestern livestock industry is gonna is gonna see a lot of change in the next generation or so,” he said.

Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing or by connecting on Facebook.