Recent storms affect cattle farmers | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo submitted A ‘fort’ consisting, from left, of a 32ft gooseneck flatbed trailer, a 42ft flatbed semi-trailer and a gooseneck cattle trailer 24 feet, provided shelter for calves during the recent April blizzard. Shown on April 12, the cattle trailer and row of straw bales served as protection for the platforms to keep snow and wind out.

Rural residents in southern Ward County have been hanging on for the long haul as they enter day four of a power outage on Tuesday afternoon.

Dwayne Brandt of Ryder said 70 utility poles were east of his farmhouse.

“We won’t have electricity anytime soon” he said.

Verendrye Electric Co-op announced on Monday, with about 300 poles out of order in its system at the time, that it hopes to have all meters back in service early next week.

Gov. Doug Burgum on Tuesday declared a statewide emergency for flooding and widespread damage to utility infrastructure caused by a severe winter storm last weekend. The governor also declared a disaster for areas affected by record snowfall during the historic April 12-14 blizzard based on local costs incurred for snow removal.

Photo submitted Cattle owned by Darren and Dwayne Groninger of Douglas form a tight pack to battle the extreme elements during the April 13 blizzard.

Burgum plans to seek presidential disaster declarations for both events to unlock federal aid to help pay for snow removal and infrastructure repairs, including numerous downed utility poles in western counties that have left thousands of customers without electricity.

To keep pipes from freezing and food from thawing during the outage, Brandt said, he hung an RV on one house and a light plant on another house on the farm where he, his wife, their daughter and their son-in-law live. It was 66 degrees in his home on Tuesday afternoon as he surveyed temporary electrical installations.

“It kind of makes you appreciate the way things normally are,” said Brandt.

Darren Groninger of Douglas has been without power since Saturday.

The temperature inside his home dropped to 40 degrees, although he was able to raise it to around 55 degrees after family members provided him with a propane heater designed for indoor use.

“It wasn’t bad when I slept because I could just add blankets to my bed,” said Groningen. “But when I changed from my pajamas to my work clothes to go check the cows, it was terribly cold.”

The calving season has been tough for Groninger and his brother, Dwayne. They got water where they don’t want it and no water where they have it.

The lack of electricity cut off rural water in North Prairie and rendered livestock watering wells unusable. They used a gas pump to fill a tank from a swamp to deliver water to their livestock until North Prairie could restore service on Monday.

“The snow has piled up around our barns, as it does for any obstacle or building,” says Groningen. “Normally, if there was no snow, we have the ground sloping so that the water drains from the barns. Well, a lot of our barns, the water ran down, hitting the snow bank and the ice on the outside, and then it kind of funneled it under the wall and into the barn. A few of our barns are quite soggy and there is some standing water in some lower areas of the barn.

They consider themselves lucky to have fewer cows calving than usual due to the decision to sell off a number of cattle last year due to lack of grass and water during the drought.

“If we had had our normal number of cattle, it would have been much worse for us,” says Groningen.

Yet they ran out of space for about 40 cow-calf pairs during the mid-April blizzard. The solution was to build a “strong” using a 42ft flatbed semi-trailer and a 32ft gooseneck flatbed trailer, protected by another cattle trailer and straw bales. The cows were able to shelter from the wind and the calves were able to shelter under the trailers.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service advises ranchers to expect a delay in cattle entering pasture this spring. Grass development and growth will be slowed due to cooler than normal weather in addition to the 2021 drought.

Groninger estimates the delayed spring will extend the amount of hay ranchers need for their livestock by about a month.

“Hay is at a premium. It’s very expensive and it’s a big extra cost for the breeder now to feed those cattle for another month,” he said. “On the other hand, I’m jumping for joy that we have moisture in our pastures, hay crops and grain crops. We should be set for a pretty good year.

It’s a sentiment shared by Brandt.

“The humidity is good because we were quite dry. Last year we only had three inches of moisture the entire growing season,” said Brandt.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) and the North Dakota Stockmen’s Foundation (NDSF) have teamed up to support the state’s livestock producers, who have suffered widespread deaths and illnesses from livestock to damaged buildings and fences. Food supplies are also low, with the Haley blizzard and last weekend’s storm following a major statewide drought.

Nonprofits are launching the Hope After Haley Disaster Relief Fund. The NDSA and NDSF launched the relief fund with their initial contribution of $40,000 and are inviting others to join them in contributing to the effort.

Monetary contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be made by check payable to NDSF, with “Hope After Haley” written in memo, at 407 S. Second St., Bismarck, ND 58504, or credit card gifts can be made online at

The gifts will be distributed to North Dakota cattle ranchers later this spring through an application and nomination process. A selection committee of fellow breeders will make selections and distribute funds to those most in need.

Disaster Relief Application and Nomination forms will be available to livestock keepers in May at

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