If drought wasn’t enough, Maui ranchers face added challenge: Axis deer

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Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:18 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:44 PM HST
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KULA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The dry summer has gone from bad to worse for ranchers on Maui.

The latest drought monitor shows some areas on the Valley Isle are now in “extreme drought.”

Add to that, ranchers who have limited food for cattle are now struggling to control axis deer, which are eating the little grass they have left.

“The drought conditions are the worst in Maui County,” said National Weather Service senior hydrologist Kevin Kodama. “They recently went to D3 conditions on the U.S. Drought Monitor map … that’s the extreme drought category.”

Kodama says the dry conditions are especially challenging for ranchers who rely on rain and need forage to feed their cattle.

Kaonoulu Ranch General Manager Ken says it hasn’t rained in Kula in months.

“As you can see, the grass is drying up and the forage for the cattle is getting short,” Miranda said.

Unfortunately, Kodama says relief won’t be coming soon.

“The outlook that we’ve been getting, the climate models, are projecting perhaps a late start to the wet season. So instead of getting of getting a bump in rainfall in October, you may have to wait a little longer,” Kodama said.

Miranda has had to make some tough decisions. He reduced his cattle by almost 30%.

“The calves, a lot of them will end up on the mainland, the cows will end up in the local market, mostly on Oahu,” said Miranda. “Just to get down to where we can be sustainable.”

They’ve also tried several options to keep out the deer, but it is costly. Miranda started putting up high fences to keep them out. But to do his whole ranch will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Besides not having the forage, the deer are out here competing with the cows, and we have huge numbers of axis deer,” he said.

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