‘It’s still not as bad as 1976’: Cattle producers in the Sioux Falls area are still going to experience the long-term affects of drought

KELOLAND.com Original

WORTHING, S.D. (KELO) — Although the drought conditions and it’s affects on cattle are not as drastic as they are in other parts of the state, Sioux Falls Regional Livestock is still seeing quite a few producers looking to sell cattle earlier than other years, since the conditions are getting drier.

They are running short of grass and having to start to use some of their hay that they typically save for the winter months.

Mike Koedam, an owner of Sioux Falls Regional Livestock, said having to sell cattle early isn’t a good thing for producers.

“That’s their livelihood, if they have to run out of feed they might start to selling some of their livestock, which like I said, that’s how them guys make a living year-round,” he said. “So, that’s kind of the bad part of it.”

It not only has an impact on the producers, but it will also affect the sale barn.

Koedam said they will be seeing more cattle up front, right now, rather than later on, which will make their sales a lot smaller in the coming months, or possibly for even more than a year.

“If they’ve got to sell some of their momma cows, the folks won’t have as many calves on hand as they typically would every other year,” he said. “We are getting a few more numbers now, but it will affect us down the road here like I said, four months to a year, year and a half.”

The calf and yearling markets right now are really good, the fat cattle market has been going down a little bit recently.

“But if they are selling, they are getting a pretty good price for what they are selling, even though we hate to see it, they hate to see selling cattle,” Koedam said. “It’s always hard to replace when you have your home-raised stock to go out and find some down the road.”

But having a good feeder cattle market, does help out, he said.

These conditions should help the market in the future, Koedam said, because there should be less cattle, helping both the feeders and the fat cattle market.

Koedam has not been out to some of the hardest-hit drought areas in the state, but from talking to other producers, he said it is drier out there. Around the Sioux Falls area, you don’t see as many people selling their cattle due to drought, as you do in some of those other areas.

Those producers have spent years building up their herds, he said, and now they have to start selling off anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of their herd.

“That’s something they’ve got to replace down the road,” Koedam said. “They’ve got their genetics and they do all the work for years, so that’s kind of the worst part out that way where it sounds a little worse.”

Most of the cattle sold at the sale barn are from within 100 to 150 miles.

Some producers in the area have been bringing in cattle from those harder hit areas to raise here, Koedam said, where they are closer to Iowa and there are more feedlot operations than there are in the Dakotas.

“We’ve been fortunate to get some rains here, there is definitely going to be some feed, some silage so we will probably see more of that, more people trying to get them here or farmers and ranchers from here will go out west to buy them to bring them back here to feed,” he said.

Sale numbers have been pretty similar or maybe just a little higher than a normal year, Koedam said.

In the past 30 to 60 days, the numbers have been close to what they were two years ago. Last year the numbers were down, most likely due to COVID-19, he said.

Right now is early for selling grass-fed cattle, Koedam said. They normally wouldn’t be selling those cattle until late summer. But it is just about normal time for backgrounded cattle sales.

“They are running out of grass, short grass, they have no other choice than to just sell them,” he said. “So a few more cattle off grass, but backgrounded cattle it’s kind of normal for this time of year.”

At the sale barn, some cattle may come a day early and stay a day after the sale, which means the sale barn has to have hay for them. Koedam said they typically go through a decent amount of hay. They do have a little hay field of their own, but they only made about two-thirds of what it normally produces.

“It is affecting everybody in the area,” he said.

It might take a year or two to get out of this drought, Koedam said. It is going to take the producers time to get their herds built back up if they had to disperse of some of their cattle.

“Hopefully we just get a little more rain in between and we get some roughage to feed to the stock,” he said.


Bob Julson, producer with Double J Farms in Garretson, said that it is not as dry as it was in 1976, but they are concerned about where all the feed is going to come from and his pastures are getting short.

So far, he said they have not had to sell cattle off earlier than normal, but today they sold some fat steers today because they wanted to get them out of the heat. If the weather wasn’t so hot, they probably would’ve kept these cattle a little longer and gotten them heavier.

“Due to the weather and hot conditions, we decided to market them today,” he said.

Rather than selling off cattle, Julson said he thinks they may possibly bring in cattle from the Aberdeen area because there is not good pasture ground there.

‘So, we will bring them to our place and somehow get enough stuff ground up or fed up or something to figure it out,” he said.

Figuring out the next steps of carrying on during a drought can be difficult for producers.

“I don’t know if there’s anything that’s normal when you’re in the cattle business,” Julson said. “We are probably going to not buy feeder steers to fed, so that will be held back for the cow-calf operation.”

Right now, Julson’s operation has around 150 purebred cow-calf cattle and 100 bred heifers.

On his operation, Julson does have enough feed now, but they are having some wheat straw bales shipped in from the Aberdeen area.

“Everybody with the cattle situation is concerned about the feed,” Julson said.

They have not had to haul water in yet, but they are using their neighbors hydrants to water their cattle, so they are paying that rural water bill.

Julson does have corn and alfalfa crops as well as the cattle.

“We caught a rain that maybe made it look a little better right now, so we look better than a lot of people’s,” he said. “I guess we are thankful for that.”

When asked what it would take to get out of this drought, Julson said he might have to go to church on Sundays.

“We’re in South Dakota, it will do what is does,” he said.

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