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Spring Rains Rally Our Ranch Hopes, But Is It Too Little Too Late?

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Will the timely rains in May alleviate the drought through the summer?

We spent Memorial Day weekend moving cow-calf pairs to pasture. Sorting off the pairs was more difficult this year as a result of muddy lots produced by the non-stop rain we have received the last couple of weeks. Not that I’m complaining. We’ve prayed long and hard for some much-needed moisture, and we are finally getting it.

The stock dams have filled up, the grass has greened up, and it’s looking like at least June will be a good month for grazing and haying. Certainly, we aren’t out of the woodworks yet, however.

I realize that the water could stop at any time, and the heat of a long summer could once again damage cattle ranchers across the country. Even though we have received some timely rains in our area, the drought that plagued us in 2012 could still continue in 2013.

Yet, I’m optimistic that this rain is the start for good things to come. Perhaps this is naive of me to think so positively, and maybe it’s too little too late.

According to the Tri-State Neighbor, “Grasslands in many parts of the state are already experiencing drought this year, according to NRCS data. With the exception of northeastern South Dakota, most of the state is still in some form of drought. Ranchers in Butte, Meade and other counties are also plagued by a shortage of surface water for livestock. Soils were so dry this spring they soaked up melting snow like a sponge.”

Additionally, my hometown paper, The Daily Republic, reports that, “Substantial rains fell across much of South Dakota in the past week, adding to moisture from April snowstorms to improve conditions after last summer’s drought that cut into crop yields and forced many ranchers to sell cattle in South Dakota and other states. State Climatologist Dennis Todey says the recent rain has put water in the top layers of the soil in many places, making the grass greener and getting crops to start growing. But in many areas, deeper soil levels have not been recharged.

“The U.S. Drought Monitor report indicated that all of South Dakota was at least abnormally dry. About two-thirds of the state was rated in severe or extreme drought, but no part was in the highest category of exceptional drought. That’s an improvement from three months ago, when 87% of the state was in severe, extreme or exceptional drought. Rangeland was hit so hard last summer that it will recover only slowly, even with additional precipitation.”

How is the weather in your neck of the woods? Have you received some timely rains this spring and early summer? How are your pastures and hay fields shaping up? Share your reports in the comments section below.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Bryan Gill (not verified)
on May 30, 2013

Its amazing how the country can change over night! 2 weeks ago, we were nervous not knowing what should be done. Lots of pairs, and replacement heifers from the Dakotas were getting sold, with more to come. Since then at our ranch, near Timber Lake, SD we have had 6 1/2 inches rain and at a lease we have east of us 45 minutes we have had over 8 inches there. The dams are all full, the grass looks great, and the fields are going to make hay. We have had more rain this last 2 weeks than we did all summer last year. Our annual precip is around 16 inches with snow included, and the last 2 weeks we are over 1/3 of the way there. Things are great in cow country!

Frank Schlichting (not verified)
on May 30, 2013

Things are looking good up here in the Northern British Columbia as well. We have had many years of drought here. Lucky we have clay soils and cool summer temps so we can get by with very little rain. Even though we had the latest snow melt in history the grass is in great shape at this point. Amazing how quick things can turn around, with warm temps and some rain. We went on our last snowmobile ride for the season here on the ranch on the first of May!

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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