2019 In Review: Cattle

Published: Dec. 24, 2019 at 3:33 PM CST
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Crops and Cattle were similarly challenged this year. A lingering winter forced many to delay their spring plans. Market prices made selling a risky strategy. And now, some ranchers aren't prepared for what this winter may bring.

North Dakota farmers are testing their adaptability this year. From late-night harvesting in late November, to handling snowy cattle.

"I know everybody is trying to work their way through this and find hope on the back end. It seems like any time we've turned a corner this year, whether it's livestock or grain production, there's just been some new challenge that we've had to deal with,” Agriculture Secretary Doug Goehring said.

North Dakota endured one of the wettest falls on record. The early and persistent cold forced ranchers to bring their cattle out of the fields a month early.

"Usually we graze until quite late, but because of all the snow and all the wet moisture that we had, we weren't able to do that. Usually, we're out there until January, but this year we weren't because there's too much snow. It's too hard snow,” Rancher Richard Tokach said.

The excessive moisture didn't just change logistics of the cows; it also affected how they're fed. Many in the state saw their hay freeze and mold in the fields before it could be brought in.

"We had a tough time getting hay out of the fields. Of course because of all the snow and rain, and we dug up some alfalfa fields just trying to get them out. Things are frozen now, but we still got a lot of hay scattered out there. There's still so much snow out there; eventually we'll get them in,” Tokach said.

Just this month, North Dakota established a Feed Transportation Reimbursement program, which can partially compensate ranchers who needed to bring in hay.

A silver lining for the cattle industry is that Japan recently ratified a trade deal with the U.S.

The deal would bring beef tariffs back down to equitable levels with other countries.