North Dakota cattle producers optimistic moving into spring

Jason Leiseth, president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, says the outlook for calf-cow and beef producers across North Dakota is the best it has been in years.

Karissa Daws, owner of Grassy Meadow Ranch, says past years of drought and blizzards have resulted in hearty heifers. Calving season at her ranch near Michigan, North Dakota, takes place in January and early February.
Ingrid Harbo / Grand Forks Herald

MICHIGAN, N.D. – With calving out of the way and the annual production sale completed, Grassy Meadow Ranch is approaching breeding season as the weather warms and snow begins to melt at the farm near Michigan, North Dakota. Though spring always brings unknowns, Karissa Daws, the owner of the 100-head red angus ranch, is looking forward to the coming year.

“We’re excited about our new sire groups and seeing how they grow through the summer,” said Daws. “With all this moisture and snow, the grass should get a good start if it warms up, so we're excited to go through the year and watch the calves grow.”

With an earlier-than-average calving season and production sale, Daws will soon finish delivering bulls to buyers and begin artificial insemination and breeding. Daws and her husband also raise crops like canola and wheat, and by calving and breeding earlier, those operations are finished before spring planting begins.

Other cattle producers in the state also are optimistic about 2023, said Jason Leiseth, president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. The outlook for calf-cow and beef producers across North Dakota is the best it has been in years.

“The cow herd is at its lowest since 1962, which means fewer calves to be marketed, which results in higher prices paid for those calves. So it's a very optimistic outlook from a price standpoint,” he said.


The compromise increases work requirements for SNAP recipients. Nutrition programs had been a contentious part of farm bill negotiations in the past.

Average to above average snow totals across the state bode well for moisture, said Leiseth, depending on how the snow melts.

“In the eastern part of the state, they may be looking at a situation where they have too much moisture to make calving difficult,” Leiseth said.

Those selling cattle can expect good prices, but at the same time, input costs for feed also have risen.

“Costs are up, like everywhere else, so we need to temper the optimism a little bit and make sure that we’ve got both sides of the formula working so that we can retain profitability at the ranch level,” Leiseth said.

The previous two years brought difficult weather conditions for many ranchers. An April 2022 blizzard brought heavy snow, ice and eventual mud when many producers were calving. In 2021, drought brought the sell-off of more livestock than usual as pastures dried up.

At Grassy Meadow Ranch, Daws says the last two years produced a hearty round of heifers that are now going into their second year of breeding.

“They’re going to be our heartiest bunch of females I think – they were raised in a drought and went through storms and bad weather as yearlings, and a wet spring with mud,” she said. “(We were) still able to get them bred and now this year, we’ve had so much snow and cold weather and now they’re trying to raise their first calves.”

Katelyn Landeis, NDSU Extension agent for Grand Forks County, said herd numbers are down, but the feed market is recovering after the 2021 drought.


“We’re still seeing a recovery in the number of animals in the state, but at least last year we had good hay production so I think feed is still recovering. I think our cow market will follow here too,” said Landeis.

Leiseth says the coming years of high livestock prices could bring a financial rebound for ranchers who were hurt by two years of harsh weather.

“From both a moisture standpoint and a marketing standpoint, there are a lot of reasons for optimism in the cattle business right now,” said Leiseth. “We are really thankful for that, and it really should, all things considered, very likely be a good year for most producers in North Dakota.”

Karissa Daws scratches the nose of one of Grassy Meadow Ranch's Red Angus cows.
Ingrid Harbo / Grand Forks Herald

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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