Skip to main content

Being Proactive and Prepared During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Tips for South Dakota Farmers and Ranchers

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Are you prepared to be gone from your operation for a month? Given the current situation and forecast for the number of people that will contract COVID-19 to some degree; farmers and ranchers need to be prepared make contingency plans. 

“Farmers and ranchers are the toughest guys and gals I know,” said Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist. “However, no matter what we think, we are not bullet proof and COVID-19 may strike our homes and families. We need to have a plan.”

Gessner suggests considering others who would be able to take your place, in the case of illness, for a day, a week or up to a month of time. Additionally, it will be helpful to make a list for that person of daily tasks, activities and detailed suggestions on how things need to be done. 

A list of daily tasks and activities to consider might include:

  • Feed rations and location of needed supplements
  • Lists of cows or ewes due within the week and/or month
  • Medications that need to be repeated 
  • A record of cows in calving pens to be paired up
  • Water sources – if a well or pipeline, indicate where the shutoffs are
  • Where and how to make the “trick” engine, starter, PTO, or other mechanical devices work
  • Which bins need to be checked for grain quality and how the fans work

Be prepared to answer the following questions about upcoming events:

  • Where and how much prepay seed or fertilizer have you bought?
  • Has fertilizer been spread on any acres and which ones?
  • Where should herbicide and insecticides be purchased?
  • What is the crop rotation plan for the year and is it indicated on a map?
  • How much corn has been contracted for summer delivery, which bin is it in and where is it going?
  • What vaccinations do the calves/lambs need?
  • When should cows go to pasture?
  • When should bulls be turned out?
  • Which cows are supposed to go to which pasture with which bulls?
  • Will any cows be artificially inseminated?
  • What mineral should be fed?

Other items and information to prepare might include:

  • Name and contact information of professionals who you work with on a regular basis, including your crop insurance agent(s), veterinarian, livestock nutritionist, local feed store, agronomist, banker, etc.
  • Health care directives
  • Will (update if it needs it)
  • Bills to be paid and approved checking account signers

“The big thing amid this health pandemic is to prepare for the worst, and pray you never need it.”

— Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist

Communicate this information with those you work with. Start with spouses and children, and then add fellow farmers and ranchers, neighbors and friends that may step in to help get your crop planted if you are unable to. 

“I was locked in a tractor this past week because I didn’t know the trick in the handle,” said Gessner. “I could have climbed out the back window, but knowing the tricks and how-to’s ahead of time will help your family and friends during a stressful situation. Please be safe and practice as many stay-at-home and social distancing protocols as possible.”

For more information and suggestions on how to best prepare during this unprecedented time, contact SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist Heather Gessner by email or 605.782.3290.