Severe drought conditions leave farmers and ranchers in McKenzie County with difficult decisions

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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KEENE, N.D. - When to plant and when to sell cattle. Those are the decisions being made by people in the ag industry amid severe drought conditions.

Moisture has been very hard to come by in North Dakota since last year. For McKenzie County, this is the driest they’ve been on record. If the weather was warmer than it is now, conditions would be right up there with the 80′s.

“I think this is one of the drier situations, but it hasn’t been as hot as it was in 1980 and 1981. 88 was really hot,” says Rancher Perry Ecker.

The last time farmers and ranchers have seen a good amount of precipitation was last summer. It has been dry ever since. A lack of winter snow has made it difficult for grazing.

“The grass isn’t going to do anything,” said rancher CJ Thorne, “You can take cattle to grass, but there’s not going to be anything for them to eat.”

And now as we enter spring, farmers will need to decide on when to plant. Any option has its risks.

“If you don’t get it in - you wait too long - and it decides to rain, you’re out a bunch there too,” said farmer and rancher Beau Wisness.

Despite the conditions, they remain optimistic in seeing moisture again, which would be a big help.

“The year my daughter was born, 1982, it was dry, then we had a foot of snow on May 12th. That really helped,” said Ecker.

There is no correct answer of how to operate in the Ag industry, as it comes down to how mother nature feels. Making these decisions is what being a farmer and rancher is all about.

“It’s a lifestyle you better be tough at. You have to be able to accept that not every day will be the same day,” said Thorne.

One thing everyone will agree on, is that we need a good storm.

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