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Drought I

Northern Star



This entry does not really have any format.


To start off, drought isn't uncommon for our area, but droughts of nature like this usually happen rarely, the last time was in the 1980s, before that roughly the 1950s or 1960s or the 1970s depending on your area, before that the 1930s, before that it sounded like the 1910s had one and then the 1890s and possibly the 1880s or 1860s. Historically the last decade or so has been above average for precipitation. 

The winter of 2018 started off with little snow, but followed a fall with a decent amount of rain. The winter of 2019 that followed  continued with little snow or rain. Spring brought a little rain, summer not much, fall not much, and the winter of 2019-20 little snow, spring of 20 little rain, same with summer and fall, but early winter of 2020 brought hope as it seemed to be somewhat normal start to the winter. It then warmed up and melted. Into 2021 there was occasional snow but nothing meaningful. Spring of 2021 brought very little rain, late spring was beginning to look hopeful, but now in early summer of 2021, there is very little hope and many are in a "crisis" or "emergency" mode.

From July of 2020 to June of 2020 it basically did not rain or snow.

Record keeping in my area began in 1873. They said it was the driest spring and first quarter of the year on record, but the Indians(the ones local to the area take offense to "Native American" and the like) say their history says there was more and worse before in the past. 

2020 it rained just enough to supplement the subsoil moisture from 2019 and 2018 to get the crop to the finish line.

We had no subsoil moisture, no stored moisture this year. We have gotten a total of about 4 inches of rain since last July. Usually we are in the teens to twenties, plus the subsoil moisture from fall rains and the snow.

Operations in our area are beginning to cull their herds again. Earlier this spring, most did with the more undesirable traits going down the road, but now operations are looking at the older cows. The pastures that are here simply didn't really grow or have went dormant due to lack of moisture. If it rains the pastures could wake up and come out of dormancy. 

Some operations are completely dispersing of their herds due to the lack of pasture and the probable lack of feed this fall and winter. They are not all small, poor, run down operations either, some 300, 500, 1000 head operations are calling it quits.

Stockyards at this time usually have a small sale every other week. Most are running sales twice a week from 6AM to 3AM because there are just that many being put on the market. One stockyard said they usually sell a thousand head a month during the summer. They're doing double  to triple that a day.

Crops here, if they germinated, made it to a variety of stages. Some ankle height, some shin, some knee, some to the stage where they start filling the head(the seed/grain) before they ran out of water. Some are still growing but if a reasonable amount of rain doesn't come soon, they will not make it.

This drought isn't limited to my area either, the Canadian Prairies, from Alberta to the Manitoba-Ontario border, is in worse shape from what I have seen, read, and heard. Crops there made it to ankle height and died. The drought then appears to stretch to about Kansas to south, Idaho to the west, and the Mississippi river to the East, all in various stages of drought but that area is considered one of the most productive parts of the world for many things. North Dakota, my state, alone makes most of the US's wheat crop, usually tied with Kansas at about 40%. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year goes and how the markets and world react.

Possible Questions and Answers:

Do you not have Irrigation? Why grow in such a dry area?

Some do have Irrigation. They are being limited to what they can pull from rivers. There are currently no known aquifers(in my area) that can support or supply irrigation wells so only land reasonably close to rivers can be irrigated. We grow here because most of the time it's fine. It may be dry but not this bad.

Could the dead crops be used for feed?

Possibly, depending on if you could cut and bale it without turning it into powder, and if the nitrate level isn't too high(it usually is in a very dry or stressed crop). It also depends on the crop insurance company. 

Can't you buy hay?

Yes but at what price? Nebraska is usually the place it would come from or the Red River of the North Valley, but even with Nebraska not being hit as bad, there is less than usual and eventually the trucking costs more than the hay itself. One YouTube channel made this point where someone offered them free hay in Ohio. They are in Wyoming. Trucking alone would put the price of the "free" hay over the inflated price of local hay with trucking. At some point it becomes impossible to make any money, which you have to the government doesn't help much and banks like to charge interest still, and that's a factor in why some operations are simply retiring. 

Was this predictable? Shouldn't you be prepared for something like this?

The last 3 years anyone and everyone in weather had said "record breaking precipitation" "big snow winters" "large flooding potential" "expect below average temperatures and above average precipitation ". We got none of that. We usually have about 500 bales left over, we had a little more left over last year, this year we are down to 200. We need about 2000 6x5 round bales, each weighing about 2000lbs to comfortably go into the winter. Last winter was a "easy" winter. Warm, no snow=less feed as they don't have to fight to stay warm. We went in with 1100 I think. 

If you have any more questions or spot something worded confusingly or a typo or something, let me know.

Yes it is named "Drought One" as I'm sure there will be more on it  sadly.

Edited by TheGleaner



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