From the Ground Up - Retaining Your Cow Herd

The drought has already had a huge impact on local ranchers, and as long as it persists, they continue to have to make decisions about how they might be able to retain their cow herd, or whether to move forward with further liquidation.

“Many of our producers are down to the nucleus of the best of the best of their herds. They’ve culled off most of the stuff that’s not very productive for them, so they’re trying to retain the nucleus herd that they’ve got there.”

“We’re seeing tremendous sales throughout the cow-calf sector. You know with the drought there’s just not a lot to eat, and so we’ve got to move them or we’ve got to sell them. Those are kind of the two best options I see.”

Donnell Brown is the seed stock and marketing manager for the R.A. Brown Ranch headquartered in Throckmorton.

“We are in the process, we’re outsourcing some production. We’re negotiating a trade to move some cattle to Montana, about a third of our cow herd, in hopes that that’ll, and probably sell another twenty per cent. That’s going to get us down to about half our normal production, and we’re hoping that’s going to get us through this drought situation.”

Input costs are high, and feeding this time of the year isn’t in most ranch’s business plans.

“The good thing about where we are in this drought different than those throughout my lifetime and my father’s lifetime is that we have record high cattle prices, so we count that as a blessing. The high cattle prices are definitely creating some opportunities to create some cash flow, to pay for some feed that is also at high prices, that’s one of the challenges we face, but those high prices are allowing us to liquidate some cattle at a good value.”

The unpredictability of Mother Nature complicates decision making.

“The hard part right now is deciding how many to hold on to, and when is this drought going to break? Those are things we don’t know. Those are things that are out of our control, so we try our best to control the things that are under our care, and manage it the best we know how.”

As always, a little dose of optimism keeps producers in the game. I’m Ashley Batey, looking at the journey our food makes from the ranch to our tables, From The Ground Up.

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