Thursday, October 07, 2021

A mega-drought is hammering the US. In North Dakota, it's worse than the Dust Bowl

Joey and Scott Bailey are sitting in their kitchen trying to figure out how they'll get through these next few months.

"Just your grass hay that we would spend $30 a bale on, people are spending $150 a bale, and they're driving 250 miles to get it," Scott says.

The Baileys own a ranch on the remote prairie about 60 miles south of the US-Canada border, in the heart of what locals boast is the capitol of North Dakota cattle country, McHenry County. The county is also one of the most drought plagued places in the nation, where comparisons are now being drawn to the Dust Bowl.

Ranchers here have been forced to sell off their herds at historic rates and are now worried they won't have enough feed to keep their remaining cows alive this winter. The Baileys sold twenty cows a few months back, because they couldn't afford to keep them fed. It's been so dry that they couldn't grow much of their own hay.

"We didn't have any rain last fall, and we had a super warm winter," Joey says. "When we don't get snow in North Dakota, that hurts us a lot in the spring 'cause we need the snow to make it grow right away in the Spring."

 The historic drought has put a serious strain on forage, which are the plants animals graze on. So that means hay and feed are at a premium."You're fighting with your neighbor, your friend, the guy down the road 'cause there's only so much feed out there," Scott says. "It's extremely stressful."

Drive across the state, and it's an all too familiar scene of trailers lined up outside auction barns, anxious cows mooing as they're unloaded into pens.

One auction barn in Rugby, North Dakota, reported a ten-fold increase in sales this past summer. In Devil's Lake, the Lake Region Livestock barn has seen roughly double the volume at its weekly sales.


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