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Drought concerns force ranchers to sell cow-calf pairs, sale barn adds second weekly sale

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 3:13 PM CDT
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DICKINSON, N.D. – The weekend rain was exactly what producers across the state have been waiting for.

The drought is still very real though, and ranchers are still searching for ways to make it through this year.

For many, that’s meant some early trips to the sale barn.

This isn’t where Dean Baar wanted to be in May.

“We’re selling about 60 pairs today,” said Baar, who ranches south of Gladstone, N.D.

Baar isn’t alone. The drought has forced many producers like Baar to sell cow-calf pairs. So many, in fact Stockmen’s Livestock in Dickinson has added a second weekly sale.

“They are just so many of them that can’t fit them in all into one day,” said Larry Schnell, president of Stockmen’s Livestock.

On this day, the crew at Stockmen’s will sell 700 cow calf pairs, along with 50 bred females and about a 100 slaughter cows.

“That’s about our limit on one day,” said Schnell.

Schnell is the president of Stockmen’s Livestock. He’s worked here his entire life and says selling cow-calf pairs only happens during a drought.

“There’s no question it’s very odd to be selling cow-calf pairs in May,” he said.

For producers like Baar, selling now is the best option, for the rest of his herd and for his pastures.

“Pastures need time to recover. It was dry last summer and now again. Two years in a row and the grass is not growing very well,” Baar explained.

“There’s just nothing left, there’s no grass from last year because they used it up either last year or this winter, and no hay because last year’s hay crop was half of normal at best. So, we’re in a position where they have to do something,” added Schnell.

For many, something means selling now.

“It will make a difference,” said Baar.

The biggest difference maker: regular and timely rains to help the pastures recover and keep their remaining cattle fed and healthy.

Schnell says he’s had buyers come from as far away as Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas. He says usually the cost of transportation keeps those buyers away, but he says many are willing to pay that price for the high-quality cattle they can purchase in the Dakotas.

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