Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published April 19, 2011, 09:19 AM

Flood makes livestock care tougher for farmers

While Valley City residents fight to contain the Sheyenne River within its banks, the people who live downstream face other dilemmas. One challenge is caring for livestock, according to Jerry Hieb, a farmer south of Valley City along the river.

By: Keith Norman, Jamestown Sun

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — While Valley City residents fight to contain the Sheyenne River within its banks, the people who live downstream face other dilemmas. One challenge is caring for livestock, according to Jerry Hieb, a farmer south of Valley City along the river.

The Sheyenne River remains at record levels after releases from the upstream Baldhill Dam were decreased from the record level of 6,500 cubic feet per second to 6,000 cfs Monday. The releases are anticipated to continue for several days as the level of Lake Ashtabula is lowered to acceptable heights.

“It’s difficult to get to the animals,” Hieb said. “Everything is flooded.”

Hieb is in the process of calving about 100 head of cattle while two of his barns are under water and the third has the rising Sheyenne right up to the back door. The Hieb farm is located about six miles south of Valley City.

“We can’t run the cows on pasture,” said LaWanna Hieb, Jerry’s wife. “We don’t have time to fix fences and fight floods at the same time.”

The Hiebs had constructed permanent dikes around the farm home and other out buildings. However, this year’s event is beyond what they had prepared for.

“We built dikes but not for an all-time record,” Jerry Hieb said. “You can’t fight these kinds of things.”

Hieb said he has taken what precautions he can given the mud and high water. First-calf heifers have been moved to the one barn still out of the water and older cattle are on higher pastures. Still, the water is taking a toll.

“There will be an impact as far as calf losses,” LuWanna Hieb said. “It’s so cold, icy and wet, if mothers aren’t good you lose the calf in a short time.”

Others south of Valley City fight the Sheyenne to maintain their homes.

“It changes your lifestyle a bit,” said Martha King, who lives about five miles south of Valley City. “It’s pretty comparable to what we saw in 2009. Most of the residents have stuck it out, some have had to move.”

Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin agreed there had been losses.

“We’ve had some people property loss but no loss of life,” he said.

That situation is credited to people’s cooperation, said Eldred Knutson, Barnes County commissioner.

“People look out for each other,” he said. “Lot of property damage but the number one thing is people look out for each other.”

Knudson said two particular issues are facing rural Barnes County residents.

“It’s very tough on farmers. Some farmers have hay bales where they are damaged by the river,” he said. “And the roads are a constant challenge in rural communities.”

The road between Kathryn and Valley City crosses the Sheyenne River five times. At four of those bridges the water has forced the closure of the road.

“We don’t go anywhere we don’t have to,” said Barb Young, another resident along the river. “You can get to most places but on different and longer routes.”

Young said the family only used its four-wheel-drive vehicle due to the soft gravel roads which have deteriorated due to the truck traffic associated with fighting the flood.

But the challenges of the high water are something residents along the Sheyenne have gotten used to.

“I figure they owe me about 700 years,” said Jerry Hieb, jokingly. “Because I’ve been through seven 100-year floods.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

Tags: