Drought Conditions Threaten to Dry Up Local Ranchers' Livelihood

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

Drought conditions threaten to dry up some local ranchers' livelihood.

It's been almost five months since the Brazos Valley saw its last significant rainfall. Since that time, only about five inches of rain has been recorded, about a third of the norm.

The dry spell is making it hard for some ranchers to feed their livestock and it's forcing some to cut their costs any way they can.

"Our winter grasses we all planted have done nothing," Rancher Bill Conrad said.

It's one of the driest and roughest winters Bill Conrad says he can recall in his nearly 35 years of ranching.

"If you had your cattle bought to put on those winter grasses, then you had to supplemental feed them, and that's really been an extra cost we've incurred that we normally don't," Conrad said.

But the dry sunbaked grass coupled with a dwindling water supply has left many ranchers, like Conrad, without many options.

"I'm going to sell some calves today I had kept to go on winter grass, but it hasn't grown enough to feed them," Conrad said. "I'm tired of feeding them. It's not working."

So Conrad loads up his livestock trailer and heads to the Brazos Valley Livestock Commission to sell some of his calves and try and make back some money.

"These calves I'm going to sell today are going to bring in the 90's, probably low 90's," Conrad said. "Eight months ago, they probably would have brought in a dollar."

But with feed costs so high, Conrad says he would lose more money by keeping them.

"We can work around the market if we have the feed and water, but when you don't have them, you don't have but one choice and that's to sell them," Conrad said.

Conrad says it's something more and more ranchers may be forced to do if the dry conditions continue.

"People are probably culling a little bit harder than they normally would at this time but if we don't get measurable rain in the next 30 to 60 days I think they are going to cull even deeper," Conrad said.

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