LOVELOCK, Nev. — After two punishingly dry years, nearly 2,000 cattle ranchers attending the annual meeting of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association piled into the ballroom last November hoping for good news from the keynote speaker, a meteorologist. Instead, as the weatherman warned that the region is in a 15-year drought cycle and that this winter was bound to be as bad as any, J.J. Goicoechea saw a roomful of grizzled, stoic men exchange panicked glances in stunned silence.
“There was a look of loss on everybody’s faces,” said Goicoechea, a fourth-generation rancher and a commissioner for Eureka County, in the north-central part of the state.
The 39-year-old scanned the room, wondering what would become of the familiar faces whose businesses were already in precarious shape, thinking about the others not there who had always seemed like lifers until they sold out. The climate was thinning this herd too.