‘Flash drought’ threatens crops and cattle

Exceptionally dry conditions in the northern Great Plains are devastating farmers and ranchers.

  • Calves crowd a pen at a cattle auction in Mandan, North Dakota. Ranchers have been sending more calves than usual to market, and earlier in the summer, as they try to consolidate their herds and reduce feed costs and pasture stress during the drought hitting the Great Plains.

    Andrew Cullen
  • A bale of hay is strewn around a pen outside a cattle auction in Mandan, North Dakota.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Rancher Ross Glass works a cattle auction in Mandan, North Dakota. Glass sold about 150 calves from his own herd at the auction in an effort to consolidate his herd.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Rancher Doug Bichler poses for a portrait in front of a truckload of hay donated by Farm Rescue in Linton, North Dakota. Bichler received the hay from Farm Rescue after suffering dual misfortunes: His fields yielded fewer bales of hay this summer and he lost his right arm in a baler accident.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Rancher Doug Bichler, right, waits with his wife Maria and nephew to unload a truckload of hay donated by Farm Rescue in Linton, North Dakota. Although recent rains have fallen in North Dakota, the damage is mostly done, and the precipitation is too little and too late for most crops to improve before harvests. Bichler received the hay from Farm Rescue after his fields yielded about 500 fewer bales this summer than his animals need in a typical winter.

    Andrew Cullen
  • After a hot, dry summer, farmers in South Heart, North Dakota, say their yields are among the worst they've ever seen.

    Andrew Cullen
  • A strip of field that wasn't seeded stands out in farmer Bob Kuylen's wheat field in South Heart, North Dakota. After a hot and dry summer, wheat stalks across western North and South Dakota are only about knee-high, bearing small heads.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Farmer Bob Kuylen poses for a portrait in his wheat field in South Heart, North Dakota. He has been getting poor yields from his wheat this summer.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Looking for forage wherever they can, some ranchers have turned out their cattle onto recently harvested fields like this one in South Heart, North Dakota.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Summer heat and low precipitation have dried out ponds and cattle stock dams like this one near Livona, North Dakota.

    Andrew Cullen