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Wide spread drought across the west is priming the market for higher meat prices

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 6:56 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The northern plains are hot and dry this year, and as the sun continues to peek through the smoky air, the cattle industry in Western South Dakota is beginning to suffocate, leaving ranchers and farmers praying for rain.

Owner of Dustman’s Ranch, Jack Dustman owns 160 head of cattle and not enough water, but that’s not the only shortage his ranch faces.

“Our hay production is about less than a 3rd of what it normally is, and that’s pretty common within the community, if not, some of our neighbors have not even got any hay at all. So, with the price of hay the way its going right now, I don’t know how this is going to wash out in the fall, whether or not there is going to be many cattle left,” Dustman said.

Hay is selling for $300 dollars a ton, but typically costs between $80 to $100 dollars. Dustman adds if prices stay the same, he could be faced with some tough decisions.

“We will have to cut pretty deep for the amount of feed that we have, depending upon how hard we have to cut, it will take up to five years to recover from that,” Dustman said.

Charles Maude makes 100% of his living off farming in northern plains, he says in a typical year the grass would come up past your knees, but this year its much shorter. A field that would produce 535 bales of hay in a year is only producing 40. Maude says the conditions are getting so dire that their water sources are depleting.

“This is the first year that Spring Creek hasn’t ran all throughout the summer, in probably 10 to 12 years, a little unusual, the aquifers are starting to get dry, there are some wells, that are not producing water like, like they have for my whole lifetime really,” Maude said.

Maude adds it is only a matter of time before the issues in the plains catch up with the prices in town.

“The Cheyenne River is running such a low flow; a lot of dry land acres are just going to be a complete failure this year. We always joke, it’s going to be ground cover this year, we grew a little bit, and it just isn’t going to make cattle feed at all and you’re going to see diminished crop yields and that will trickle down to the consumer eventually,” Dustman said.

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