Weather affects spring planting, feed supplies

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By Bob Johnson

Raising cattle and crops in western South Dakota is not for the faint of heart, and the weather over the past year has tested the mettle of local farmers and ranchers. Last year’s dry growing season followed by extended cold weather this spring has delayed the planting of crops while increasing the demand for cattle feed. While the grass in the pastures remained dormant for an extra two to four weeks this year, ranchers have had to keep feeding their cattle from their already meager supply of hay.

Gene Bierman describes a typical survival strategy for a lean year. The Biermans raise grain and cattle in the Glad Valley area. Last summer they mowed and baled their small grain crops for hay, trading the income from the grain for additional feed to make up for smaller crops from their hay fields. They sold some of their cows to lower the demand for feed, CRST Council meets and then stretched their hay supply by feeding cake (pelleted chunks of grain) and lick barrels (short barrels filled with grain, minerals, and solid molasses that cattle eat by gradually licking). In spite of these efforts, Gene voiced concerns that the stress of the cold weather and low quality feed will cause health problems such as pneumonia and scours (diarrhea) in his herd this spring. “Those are the results of a dry year and going through a winter where feed is precious,” he said.

 

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