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Drought conditions could spell trouble for livestock this summer

Drought conditions
Drought conditions(KFYR-TV)
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 8:37 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows that more than 80 percent of North Dakota is now in severe drought.

This lack of precipitation is causing problems across the state.

“We’ve been calving since the end of January, so it’s been beautiful calving weather and that side has really, really been good. But as we move into spring here, of course, there’s going to be a lot of concern of are we going to be able to produce the forage and the grass people need to be able to feed the cattle,” said Will MacDonald of MacDonald Ranches.

Concerns are not only with feed availability but also with water quality.

“These ponds are not getting refreshed this year so what water is in them has already gone through last summer’s evapoconcentration, where water evaporated out and the salt remained. That’s going to continue to happen and eventually as this pond gets lower and lower we will see the water quality seriously degrade to where cattle cannot use it,” said Allen Schlag, Hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

Schlag added that for the past year North Dakota has been in a meteorological drought because of lack of normal rain or snow, but we are now entering a hydrological drought with low stream levels and an agricultural drought with low soil moisture.

“The more severe the drought, the more severe the impact for ranchers because they’ll have to sell deeper and deeper into their herds, and the problem with that is everyone is trying to sell at the same time,” MacDonald added.

MacDonald says the last drought he remembers like this one was around 1988.

The National Weather Service expects the current conditions to continue.

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