ND ranchers continue to sell off much of their cattle herds amid drought

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 7:29 PM CDT
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RUGBY, N.D. – Farmers and ranchers across the state have felt the impact of the drought. Many ranchers have had to face the reality of selling off some or all of their cattle herds, leaving places like the Rugby Livestock Auction full of cattle and potential buyers.

As the auctioneer reads off prices, many of these ranchers remain quiet. They look on as their cattle is sold off.

“The people with the smaller herds that must sell, they have nothing. The ones that have a big enough herd can cut back and get back in, they’ll probably be better off in a few years, but right now, what are they going to do for the summer,” said Larry Haman, a rancher selling some of his heifers.

Sellers from across the Midwest have come to cattle auctions like this one in Rugby to grow their own herd, understanding the hardship.

“I think if anyone has any kind of sympathy toward a lifestyle as they do, they work hard, they put a lot of time and effort into it and to see those cattle go, it’s part of their life that’s leaving when they sell those cattle,” said Keith Eichler, a livestock buyer from South Dakota.

Head after head of cattle shuffle in, and bids are placed.

More than 2,000 cattle were up for sale at auction, one of the highest numbers the auction has seen.

“We’ve got three complete herd dispersions today, cow-calf pairs, plus a lot of guys who are cutting back 40 to 50 pairs, hoping to have enough grass to keep some cattle,” said Ron Gorgerson, an auctioneer.

Some explained it was hard to watch many of the younger ranchers take such a hit.

“I want to see the young guys make it. I always say that it is God’s way of telling us old guys to quit or slow down,” joked Haman.

Many are just trying to get through the season.

“Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the ranchers, they’re not like the grain farmers that have the crop insurance program. They’re strictly on their own,” said Gorgerson.

Gorgerson added that prayers for rain are highly needed.

The next auction is this coming Monday in Rugby.

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