SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s already been a long summer for many South Dakota cattle producers.
And the start of fall is still nearly two months away. The upcoming forecast from the KELOLAND Storm Center Update is being called “a serious heat wave” with many locations getting to 100 degrees or more along with significant humidity.
“We’re just in July,” Brett Kenzy said. “Usually we were into August before we felt dried out and the grasshoppers and all that. I guess we just keep moving on and find our way forward.”
Kenzy runs a cattle operation in south-central South Dakota near Gregory. He’s also the Region III Director for R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America), a lobbying organization for U.S. cattle and sheep producers.
The longtime rancher called his farm “the gateway to the drought” as areas to the south still look pretty good.
“My heart goes out to the guys that are further up north that are in their second year of this,” Kenzy said. “We did pick up a little rain a few weeks ago and we perked up, but now the forecast looks pretty glum.”
James Halverson, Executive Director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, hears many of the same stories regarding cattle feed shortages and busy salebarns.
Typically, Halverson said, sale barns would only see cattle numbers in the hundreds this time of year, but they are seeing cattle numbers in the thousands.
“It’s bad,” Halverson said. “It’s widespread. A lot of guys didn’t even pull their haying equipment out of the shed this year because there wasn’t anything to cut. There’s no grass right now for cattle to graze.”
Kenzy said some areas west of Belle Fouche are even drier and many are starting to deal with grasshopper issues.
“It’s a tough deal,” Kenzy said. “We’re at mercy of the markets, mother nature and a lot of things.”
Kenzy noted there’s roughly 15,000 cattle producers in South Dakota and pointed out there’s roughly four cows to every person in the state. With those kinds of numbers, he said everyone in the state will feel some sort of impact from this drought.
“When we can’t keep them where they need to be, it’ll have an effect on the overall economy,” Kenzy said.
Halverson agreed and said the impact will take some time to “trickle down to the consumers.” He called American farmers and producers “the backbone of our economy” and the “backbone of the small business.”
“There’s some real tough decisions being made out there,” Halverson said.
Along with the issues from the drought, price increases on many everyday items added to the hurt.
“We’ve lost a lot of good operators. We’re all just one health issue, environmental catastrophe or a divorce, all the things that happen to everybody, happen to ag producers too,” Kenzy said.