Two ranchers in Newell face the 2021 drought

Local News

NEWELL, S.D. (KELO) — Recent rain may have some parts of KELOLAND looking more green, but that isn’t the case on some western South Dakota ranches. Two ranchers in Western South Dakota are dealing with the worst drought they’ve ever seen.

In his 12 years running the Boylan Ranch, Robert Boylan has never seen a drought quite like this.

“In the last four years we’ve built about 120 reservoirs and a lot of them just aren’t usable right now,” Boylan said.

The dry conditions have forced Boylan to sell nearly 30 percent of his cattle and about half of his sheep.

“For me, I’ve got 13 years of land payments left so I’ve got to generate x amount of dollars to make my land payments so I run x amount of livestock to do it. Well I ended up cutting my numbers and it’s going to be very very tough to make land payments,” Boylan said.

Out near Castle Rock, on the Erk Ranch, the lack of moisture has caused hay prices to explode. Mark Erk says his ranch normally produces 3,000 bails of hay. Today there are about 400.

“It’s really a very stressful time,” Erk said.

Along with the lack of hay, Erk is also having a harder time finding water for his cattle to drink.

The dam you see behind me is usually up to here but due to the 2021 drought we’ve been experiencing in South Dakota, it’s nearly dried up.

“My whole life that I’ve lived here, I have never seen this spring completely dry. It’s a spring that has been used to water livestock and wildlife but because of the drought this year, 2021, it’s completely dry,” Erk said.

“It just makes for a challenging year, we will get through it and it’ll rain sometime but it’s tough to make ends meet right now,” Boylan said.

To give you an idea of just how dry it is in the area, Rancher Mark Erk says his land normally gets about 17 to 18 inches of moisture for the year. Today, it’s only at about 6 inches.

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