Livestock auctions increase as drought forces producers’ hands

What’s supposed to be a quiet time for livestock auction barns, this month has been anything but as drought conditions worsen.
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - What is supposed to be a quiet time for livestock auction barns, this month has been anything but. And the longer the ongoing drought continues without any relief, the more hard decisions producers will face soon.

This year’s drought has been one of the worst in a half-century, according to Aberdeen Livestock Co-owner Kevin Larson. And it’s taken many off guards from a trend of wet years in the past.

“I would say the last real drought that we had was 1976. People that went through 1988 are going to say, ‘Hey, we were dry.’ But not like this, and this big widespread area,” said Larson.

The drought is hampering the supply of both feed and water for producers. To manage, many are looking to sell some of their livestock to better deal with the resources they have, or hope they can make it long enough into next year.

Both Larson and Hub City Livestock Auction Co-owner Steve Hellwig say they’ve had to increase the frequency of sales and sale dates, with Hellwig saying they’ve been working non-stop as producers look to trim their herds.

“This year here, we’ve had to do two sales a week. And usually, it’s just moderately sized even on one sale a week in the summer. We’re doing two sales a week, and they’re big sales each and every week so far. We haven’t had a week off from two sales a week, and they’re big sales,” said Hellwig.

Both Larson and Hellwig say the biggest issue for producers, and for them as well for the rest of the summer, is finding feed for their animals. It’s a problem Larson says many, including himself, haven’t had to deal with in many years.

“Usually I’d have 30, 25 to maybe over 30 calls by this time of year. I’d buy 4,500 to 5,000 bails of hay. And I’ve located 26 bails,” said Larson.

Hellwig said the only thing producers can do at this point is count down the days until the next rain, and hope for some relief. But time isn’t on their side.

“But it is what it is. The weather’s bad. We’re in trouble up here in north-central South Dakota, North Dakota’s in tough shape,” said Hellwig.

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