Sanders: Another dry summer.
How are ranchers and farmers faring through this terrible drought?
Will they quit farming and ranching voluntarily? Most will not though some, especially older ranchers who have been down the road before, may decide this is it.
Some, unfortunately, may be forced into going out of business. Reading the advertisements for livestock auctions tells the story: “Selling due to the drought.”
Ranchers almost never sell herds of mother cows, just a few here and there when some cows become less productive.
For ranchers who have spent several years building herd numbers, and more importantly herd genetics, selling out is heartbreaking.
Sale barns are having more dispersions each week as the drought progresses. When a drought as severe and geographically far reaching as this one occurs, hitting Wyoming, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Montana, good cattle that might have otherwise been purchased by another rancher are instead turned into hamburger.
It is the future generations of calves that will be missed and mourned. Once the mammas are gone, there will be no more babies and no more income. It is akin to closing the factory as there will not be any more production.
Other ranchers are spending the money and buying enough hay to keep going through this fall and winter. What’s available in our area of South Dakota is good quality alfalfa raised on farms that use irrigation water and we are surely grateful for that.
Blessed are the farmers who have irrigated farms and also ranch, for they can usually feed their cows.
Calling it quits on the land has a devastating trickle-down effect. The agricultural community is living the adage, “make do, or do without.”
Crops are bad so it may not matter that the combine needs repairs if it won’t get used anyway. A decision not to harvest affects the implement dealer, the fuel supplier and on down the line in rural areas.
On the other hand, farmers and ranchers who have good crop yields are sending semi-truck loads of hay to the hard-hit areas. Day after day, trucks are making their way to help bail other producers out or at least feed their cattle until they can figure out what to do.
A fortunate number will be find pasture in other areas of their state or even in other states. It’s expensive but so is purchasing hay from now until green grass.
Ranchers and farmers like to tell themselves that they are a tough lot who do their best work when left to their own resources, yet we help our own because it’s the way we were raised.
One thing about those of us in agriculture is our hearts break for those in drought or blizzards, those who have pastures burned in range fires or even when a fruit crop freezes in the big orchards.
We feel a kinship no matter what kind of agriculture is involved. We know it could be our neck of the woods next time and that gives us an affinity for others’ difficulties.❖
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