Gregory County ranch family impacted by drought


GREGORY, S.D. (KELO) — The drought is hitting cattle producers hard this year. In parts of Gregory County there are many ranchers who are wondering if they will have to reduce their herds or lose money by feeding them.

Andy Wonnenberg is a 4th generation rancher and runs several thousand acres in Gregory County.

Inspecting his pasture with some of his kids, they are starting to see a lot of grasshoppers that will eat off resources meant for his cattle. Hay ground and pastures are producing less grass this year because of extreme heat and lack of moisture.

“Our forage production is about 60-percent of normal. So the hay and the pasture both so, our hay is going to be way short and then our pasture a lot of them will probably be done by the first of September,” said Andy.

The extreme heat has baked the moisture out of some areas of pasture land and Andy says some of his young calves are starting to get sick from inhaling and ingesting dust.

“The calves get dust pneumonia from it being so dry and dusty and heat and so it causes a lot of sicknesses you have to continually treat then or else it’s fatal,” said Andy.

Andy’s brother Hank is a rancher and also an ag banker. He says the cattle market hasn’t been good for a few years so adding the drought on top of that is hurting most ranchers.

“In a standard year people in this area raise enough to feed their livestock throughout the year and hopefully also have some cash crop that they can market for extra income for their operation. When a year like this comes along they not only don’t have the cash crop to sell, but they have to supplement the hay they raise because they don’t get enough,” said Hank.

Hay is hard to find and even if they can find it, it is expensive. Hank believes being able to adapt is the key to survival for some ranchers.

“You keep faith and you try to stick with these guys they are hard workers and they are knowledgeable and they’ll find a way to get through it.”

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