Cattle Producers Face Relentless Heat and Drought, Hard Decisions To Be Made
Cattle to Town 072922
The summer months tend to be considered 'slower' times at livestock auctions. This year, producers across droughty areas line up for miles.
Like many others, the Seguin Cattle Company livestock auction barn in Texas has seen an influx in cattle coming to town.
Bryan Luensmann, manager of the salebarn, says the extreme heat and drought is forcing thousands of cattle ranchers to sell off their herds.
Being in the cattle business this summer, has "pretty much a roller coaster ride," Luensmann says. "It's been chaotic."
Federal forecasters say this is the second driest year around the Seguin area in the past 128 years.
Local cattle ranchers describe the challenges they face in short feed supplies.
"We're just trying to reduce numbers, and trying to reduce how many we are feeding. Because, there is no grass, and the hay we have is not going to last us through the winter," explains Priscilla McBee, a small family cattle rancher. "It's hard. Our fields are barren."
Cattle rancher, Marty Schwarzkopf, usually sells 4000-6000 bales of hay to ranchers each year. This year, he's only baled about 300.
"I feel for a lot of people. They've been doing this for years and years, and now, they don't have anything to hold on to. They're having to let go," Schwarzkopf says.
The last time cows went to town in these kinds of numbers was in 2011, says Clinton Griffiths, host of AgDay.
Comparing the current situation to 2011, producers and market analysts describe this year as much different than a decade ago.
"There's just no place, really anywhere in the country, that's got any excess hay supply," says Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University livestock marketing specialist. "I think that's going to limit what we can do in terms of sourcing hay. It's going to limit what we can do in terms of relocating some cows, compared to that drought [in 2011 and 2012]."
"Year-to-date, beef cow slaughter is up 14% while inventory is down 2.4%," says Michelle Rook, AgDay market reporter.
Peel adds, liquidation will likely continue as there is no relief in sight in the most recent 30-day outlook.
"We'll probably lose another one million beef cows this year, or potentially even a little bit more than that," Peel says.
Heifer slaughter is also up 4% with inventory down 3.5%, as more heifers are being placed in feedlots versus being kept for breeding, which is key as it indicates the lack of herd rebuilding, Peel adds.