Ranchers face tough decisions as Dakotas remain mired in drought
Fred McPherson approached some cow-calf pairs in a pasture near the family’s ranch home north of Sturgis last week and stepped across land parched by the lack of rain.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that most of the Dakotas are experiencing drought conditions that experts say are harming many farmers and cattle producers.
About 87 percent of North Dakota is in drought, while just more than half of South Dakota is experiencing drought conditions, according to updated monitoring information released late last week.
The parched conditions have expanded and deteriorated compared to last week, and roughly 700,000 people across both states are living in drought areas.
Selling calves now that would get a good price this fall means producers will likely take a hit on the animals’ value, said Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
"Our producers, our families out there on these ranches are at the mercy of the weather," Christen said.
"We’ve seen that over the last few years.
McPherson, of Sturgis, said area ranchers ended last year with a deficit of about 2-3 inches of moisture and the new year has provided little relief.
The lack of any measurable moisture has rendered the ever-popular swimming hole at Rainbow Bible Ranch unusable.
Eagan said the area has been stuck under a dome of warm weather with occasional chances of thunderstorms that bring spotty precipitation.