Cattle Producers Face Relentless Heat and Drought, Hard Decisions To Be Made

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.

Cattle Market and Drought 072922


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.



Latest News

Mastitis in Beef Cows: What You Need to Know

Although mastitis, an infection of the udder, is often considered a dairy cow problem, the disease may also impact beef producers. Here's what you need to know and look for and how to help protect your herd.

We Need More Answers, Veterinarian Says About Biosecurity Research

As a veterinarian, Jeremy Pittman, senior director of U.S. veterinary services for Smithfield Foods, says he is constantly tasked with, asked about and challenged on biosecurity processes or protocols. 

Mineral and Vitamin Considerations When Drylotting Cows

Managing cows in a drylot can be a way to maintain the herd when forage production is reduced. However, it's important to make sure cows are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.

Animal Activist and Former Baywatch Star Found Not Guilty in ‘Open Rescue’

Former “Baywatch” star Alexandra Paul and activist Alicia Santurio were found not guilty of misdemeanor theft after “rescuing” two chickens in 2021. Although they faced jail time, Paul says it was worth the risk.

7 Tips for More Effective Vaccination Programs in Calves

Ask 10 dairy producers what they believe is an effective vaccination program for calves, and you’ll likely get 10 unique answers. That’s OK, because there is no effective one-size-fits-all strategy.

For the Love of the Game, How Agriculture Helped Birth the Game of Basketball

It may not seem like basketball has a strong connection to agriculture, but from the balls used in the NBA, to the sport itself, agriculture has direct ties to a sport that takes over televisions during March Madness.