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West Texas ranchers forced to sell cattle early as drought raises feed costs

Lubbock-area ranchers are being forced to sell their cattle early in response to drought and rising feed costs.
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 5:11 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - More ranchers are having to sell their cattle earlier this year because of a drought that is making it more expensive to feed them.

Owner of the Lubbock Stockyards, Tony Mann, says most ranchers are having to bring calves in sooner, meaning the calves are smaller than usual and bringing in less money.

“They’re bringing them in a lot earlier and a lot smaller because of the drought,” Mann said. “They’re just trying to thin everything down where they can keep part of them anyway.”

Mann says ranchers are used to bringing cows in that weigh 500 to 600 pounds, but now they are bringing them in at 300 pounds. He says we will see the effect from this in the fall.

“In the fall it’s going to be, looks like to me a lot less cattle coming to town simply because they’re coming early,” Mann said.

Show cattle rancher, Matt Woodley, says a lot of the cows are also losing weight because of the heat.

“They’re shrinking simply due to stress and so that shrink is the loss of weight and pounds and that’s costing the producer money when they’re losing weight,” Woodley said.

He says this stress is something that will affect us beyond this season.

“When an animal stresses due to heat, or whatever it may be, a lot of times their reproductive tract is the first thing to go,” Woodley said. “So, you’re not only going to see this affect this year, but potentially next year.”

Woodley says in the summertime he relies on his cows being able to graze on grass. This year, Mann says that grass is short.

“An inch and a half of rain since last September that’s what, seven, eight months,” Mann said. “An inch and a half of rain, that’s not good.”

So, ranchers are having to buy more feed but those prices are up, raising prices all the way to the consumer at the grocery store.

“You, when you go to the grocery store you’re going to give more for steaks, you’re going to give more for a gallon of milk, you’re going to give more for a loaf of bread,” Mann said.

Woodley says it’s always a debate for him on what the best course of action is.

“Maybe it’s going to rain and maybe we can extend this, the reality of it is it costs you more money every single day that you have them,” Woodley said. “So, a lot of times you have to make that hard decision that it’s going to save you money to sell her today versus 30 days from now.”

Mann says this isn’t changing anytime soon. He says farmers aren’t going to have as much feed to sell to the ranchers next year because of the drought. Thus, making it where you can expect meat prices to stay up for awhile.

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