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Drought Causes Domino Effect On Cattle Industry

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Over the past few months, we’ve seen how South Dakota farmers of every kind have suffered from the drought, but of course; the damage has already been done. Even more unfortunately, those damages are going to have their own impacts on farmers even as we go into the cold of winter.

This summer's extreme lack of rainfall forced farmers across the region to adjust, even if that meant making some sacrifices. When hay production dwindled and prices went up, many cattle farmers were forced to make a decision. They could sell some of their cattle, making it cheeper to feed; or splurge until harvest, utilizing their dried up corn crops as silage.

Brad Klostergaard of Sioux Falls Regional Livestock says, “The silage is cheaper. You’re buying some moisture with it, and it’s going to give you an option there. If you cut your own silage, you can put it in a pile and feed it.”

But that silage can’t be gobbled up all at once. The drought isn’t over yet. Since hay prices aren’t showing any signs of dropping, that silage going to have to last through the winter. Otherwise, farmers may not have any other choice but to cut back on their herd.

“If the snow comes and covers us up and we gotta start start feeding, buying hay, stuff like that… Then you’ll see some of that happening,” says Klostergaard.

Even though some aren't being forced to sell their cattle right now, there will continue to be those who have to sell for other various reasons related to the drought.  

“The dairy producers possibly will have to. They’re feeling the crunch, too. They’ve got the input cost with the corn, input costs with the hay. The milk prices are kind of neutral, so you see a few of those guys going through and calling some of their less productive cows,” says Klostergaard.

And that continues the domino effect of negative impacts even after the worst of the drought  appears to be over.  

Livestock experts say that due to the drought, hay prices have increased from 130 dollars per ton to about 300 dollars per ton. Silage, however, can be purchased much cheaper at about 40 dollars per ton. 
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