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Dakota Farmers, Ranchers React To Drought

Dakota Farmers, Ranchers React To Drought

Some grain growers are lifting corn hedges; some ranchers are reducing cattle inventories.

There's been some interesting reaction on Dakota farms and ranches to the spreading drought.

The situation is not as desperate so far in much of North Dakota and South Dakota as it is elsewhere in the country. In North Dakota, for example, much of the central part of the state has had adequate rain.

Some farmers who have a good crop coming and some stored soil moisture have been lifting corn hedges in anticipation of rising prices as the drought worsens in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska.

Western and southern South Dakota ranchers, though, are having to determine if they have enough forage for the cattle they currently have out on summer pasture.

Dakota Farmers, Ranchers React To Drought

Jim Faulstich, a Faulkton, S.D., rancher featured on the National Drought Mitigation Center's website, is always planning for drought or some other disaster. He and his family have a commercial cow-calf, custom grazing and hunting operation.

When it gets dry they first send custom grazed cattle home. Then they market cows that they were going cull to sell sometime during the year anyway.

They aim to have at least a year's worth of forage on hand at all times – whether it is in the hayshed or pasture – for the animals that they want to try to keep.

"The first thing I'd recommend … is to get a whole ranch inventory," Faulstich says. "Know what your livestock numbers are, what your feed needs are and what you're capable of producing. The Natural Resources Conservation Service does that through their whole ranch planning."

Faulstich is careful not to overgraze during a drought, even if it means that some good cows have to go:

"If you ruin your natural resources and the land, it really doesn't matter if you survive the drought [financially] or not, you're going to put yourself out of business, he says.

For more on drought planning, see the National Drought Mitigation Center website,

For more on Faulstich's drought plan, and for several other ranchers' drought plans, see

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