Drought worst ranchers have seen

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:18 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Ranchers are being forced to make tough decisions that will affect their bottom lines.

Kist Livestock has seen 30% more livestock at their auctions this year in comparison to years past. Ranchers are being forced to sell their cattle because they simply don’t have the resources to feed them.

The extreme heat of the last few weeks combined with historic drought conditions has resulted in things going from bad to worse in the ranching industry.

”It’s been tough. The hay situation is not good, the feed situation in general, out in the pastures, is deteriorating by the week, actually by the day. It’s been tough,” said Kevin Fettig, a buyer and seller of cattle.

Some ranchers say it wouldn’t be so bad if they experienced natural disasters like this once every ten years or so, but they’ve only just recovered from the 2017 drought.

And the aftermath of this year looks like it’ll be even worse than droughts in the past.

”It’s the worst I’ve seen in 60-some, seventy years already. I’ve never seen it this bad. There ain’t even enough grass out there to feed the grasshoppers out in the pasture. No moisture whatsoever, nothing growing anymore,” said Fritz Rogstad, a buyer and seller of cattle.

During a normal year, Kist Livestock Auction would only have one auction per week in the summertime. But for the last three and a half months, they’ve upped that to two per week. And they still have ranchers lining up to sell their cattle.

”It’s just a bad situation all the way around for everybody. The positivity on the whole thing is that it’ll create a stronger calf and cow market down the road when guys can restock. Of course, the demand will be there,” said Matt Lachenmeier, Livestock Marketing Manager at Kist Livestock.

But ultimately, Lachenmeier says there’s not a lot of positive takeaways right now.

Before the last few weeks of high temperatures, ranchers were expecting to liquidate a quarter of their herd. Now, that number has doubled.

Lachenmeier also says people who liquidate 50% of their livestock by December will have a good chance of recovering in the coming years, but he’s worried about the ranchers who don’t take those measures. He said it would take a miracle to maintain a full herd through the winter.

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