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June 20, 2012 06:14 PM

Many Ranchers Struggling Due To Dry Weather

Belle Fourche, SD

Many ranchers in Western South Dakota are struggling because of the dry weather and that's leading some to bring their cattle to market early.

Hot and dry is a weather pattern that rancher Glenn Riley hopes will change soon.

"The pastures are hurting the worst because we can't irrigate them," Riley said.

The rancher has only measured a total of 5.25 inches of moisture so far this year.  That's less than half the average for the area.

But Riley is fortunate to have a strong irrigation system on his property, something that many of his neighbors don't.

"The water situation up north of Belle Fourche is very bad and people up there are hauling water.  I know one guy who's hauling water with a semi," Riley said.

"Well, a lot of it's water problems, but the biggest share of it is grass, no snow this last winter and no rain and runoff," Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange's owner Dean Strong said.

And the abnormally dry weather is leading many ranchers to change their plans.

On a typical June, the loading chutes at Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange would be empty.  But because of the conditions, many ranchers are bringing their cattle to market early.

"Normal year, we'd have 300-400 weigh-up cows and that'd be it.  We'll have, it's hard telling with the drop-ins, but I imagine we'll have 2,500 or more tomorrow," Strong said.

The only bright spot for many ranchers who have decided to cull their herds, it's that the selling price for their livestock remains strong.

"That helps a little when you have to sell, it takes a bit of the sting off.  I still hate to see it happen," Strong said.

We'll be at Thursday's auction and bring you more from ranchers affected by the dry weather.

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