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Heavy snows in early April continued the sogginess and ruts on the Ron and Kevin Severtson beef cow operation near Doyon, N.D. Photo taken April 16, 2019, near Doyon, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates) (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

In northeast North Dakota, hope is to start planting first week of May

DOYON, N.D. — Ron Severtson and his son, Kevin, think it might be the first week in May before they start planting east of Devils Lake in northeast North Dakota. They're ready for temperatures in the 60s and 70s.

It was reasonably dry last fall. The Severtsons had worked some ground they hadn't gotten to since things started getting wet after 1993. Ron said he hopes there has been enough moisture as the winter's snow-melt soaks in.

"It should be enough to get the crop going, anyway," Kevin adds, "If a guy can get in the first week of May it ain't too bad. A guy can put a lot of crop in the ground in a couple of weeks."

Last year, the Severtsons finished planting May 25.

Ron Severtson, 68, left, farms with his son, Kevin, 30, at Doyon, N.D.The Severtsons have about 3,500 acres to get through, mostly in Ramsey County, but some in Nelson County. The corn planting date is the most crucial, with a crop insurance deadline at May 25.

The Severtsons are planning for barley, wheat, soybeans and corn, as well as some oats and sudan grass and alfalfa for the cows. "We're just going to stick with the rotation, stick with what we've been doing, I guess," Kevin says. "See what happens."

Ron, 68, and his wife, Debby, have been farming since 1974. For a 10-year period, they supplemented the farm income with custom harvesting. Like others in the area, the Severtsons went through a wet period in the 1990s and 2000s, living with a lot of prairie potholes.

Kevin, 30, graduated from Devils Lake High School in 2007 and completed a farm and ranch management curriculum at Bismarck State College in 2009. He returned to the farm and has seen some ups and downs since. Despite commodity price projections, he still tries to remain optimistic. "Hope for better prospects and timely rains," Kevin says.

Fortunately, things have dried up some.

They have a 120-head beef cow herd. Calving started March 15 and the Severtsons had 80 on the ground as of April 17, when temperatures reached the upper 50s. There was still snow piles in the yard and in the trees in late April.

The Severtsons were busy cleaning out their feedlot, trying to haul manure into the fields. "It's pretty sloppy," Kevin says. "But you've got to start somewhere."

The Severtsons think they'll have time to get the planting equipment ready. They went through planter maintenance last June, putting it away "field-ready."

"That takes the pressure off in the spring," Kevin says. "With the tractors, if we can get a good week (of preparation) we can pretty much have everything ready."