Drought Forcing A Cattle Sell-Off - From the Ground Up

When the USDA’s semi-annual cattle inventory report came out last January it showed a continuation of a reduction in the nation’s beef cattle herd that began in 2007. With record high feed costs, record high fuel costs, and a high demand and short supply of beef, consumers are seeing high prices at the meat counter. Several factors have led to the shortage of beef and the delay of rebuilding the cow herd, but the biggest one is drought. Ashley Batey has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.

“You know we didn’t see the cows coming in last year that you would have thought after two years of sell-off, and so we didn’t get our numbers back, and now it’s just unbelievable, the numbers of cows that are being sold. I mean people are out of grass. They’re out of water, and a lot of the smaller producers that we have around here, they can’t justify what it takes to drill a water well. I mean, they’re out of water, they’re out of options.”

Jerry Armstrong ranches in an area near Dime Box.

“When it gets hot, a cow may drink 35, 40, 50 gallons of water a day, and you multiply that times however many cows you’re talking about, it’s a lot of water every day.”

The only good news is that cattle prices have remained high.

“It’s never really been this high on culled cows that I can remember, and fortunately even though there’s as many cows selling as there are, it’s stayed really good, so at least people don’t feel like they’re just giving up everything that they built. At least they’re getting paid for what they’re having to get rid of.”

And what about restocking when the drought is over?

“There’s going to be so few out there, that I think we’re going to get to see unprecedented prices on cows, and it’s going to make it difficult for a lot of people to make that decision to get back in it.”

Are the high prices the strongest factor influencing the mass sell-off?

“If we weren’t in this situation, you wouldn’t be seeing the numbers of cows leaving because the calf market’s high. I mean why would you sell your cow for basically the same thing that her calf’s gonna be worth.”

I’m Ashley Batey, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.

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