News / USA

US Drought Could Trigger Higher Beef Prices

As grazing lands dry up, cattlemen sell more livestock

Multimedia

Audio

Beef prices may be headed upward due to a severe, lingering drought in the southern United States which is putting a major financial squeeze on the region’s cattle producers.  

Across Texas cattle country, livestock auctions have been unusually busy. As grazing lands dried up, cattlemen have been selling their livestock earlier in the season and at a younger age than normal.

Worst in decades

"It's been tough," says Amarillo-area rancher Ashley Nolan. "We've sold pretty much all of our herd throughout the summer little by little waiting on the rain, and it never came. The well dried up."

In fact, just one-fifth the normal amount of rain and snow have fallen this year in the north Texas ranching communities in the Texas Panhandle.

The drought has raised the price of every type of cattle feed, including "gin trash," unwanted parts of the cotton plant produced as a by-product of the region's many cotton gins.
The drought has raised the price of every type of cattle feed, including "gin trash," unwanted parts of the cotton plant produced as a by-product of the region's many cotton gins.

Rancher Rick Kellison says it's the worst he's ever seen. "I was arrogant enough to say I'd been through some droughts before. I'm over 60. I hadn't."

The drought has forced Kellison to cut his herd nearly in half. As grazing land has dried up, hay prices have shot up to five times their normal price. That has Kellison looking for alternatives.

Even 'trash' is expensive

"Gin trash" - unwanted parts of the cotton plant produced as a by-product of the region's many cotton gins - usually provides a cheap source of feed. But the drought has devastated the region's cotton crop, too. Even gin trash costs 10 or more times as much as usual.

Kellison has spent more than a decade breeding cows to produce more meat with less feed. Now, the fruits of his labor are in jeopardy.

"When I have to liquidate a 5- to 6-year-old cow that's in her prime, I've sold my factory," he says.

'Most of these cows have names'

Kellison says some in his situation are getting out of the business. "If you just look at the numbers, and there's no emotions involved, the thing to do is sell out and punt."

Livestock auctions have been busy this year as ranchers have sold off their herds.
Livestock auctions have been busy this year as ranchers have sold off their herds.

He says it's a bad idea for a cattleman to get attached to his livestock, but, "most of these cows have names. They're what we take care of first."

So he and his family are holding on for now.

The good news for Texas ranchers is that their cattle are still getting fairly good prices at auction despite the glut on the market. That's helping many cattlemen get through the drought.

Rising beef prices

The bad news for consumers is that the rapidly shrinking beef herd means prices will likely be going up. And that herd will take years to rebuild.

However, Kellison adds, "The fear I have is, it's not over yet. And we don't know when it'll be over."

The La Niña weather pattern that contributed to this year's drought appears to be back for another year. And Texas weather officials say dryer-than-normal weather could last for a decade or more. A drought that has already cost the state's farmers and ranchers more than $5 billion is not through with them yet.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid