Friday, May 10, 2013

Onslaught of cows

For the few Kansans who haven't noticed the poor condition of Kansas' parched prairie, loiter in Samples' Salina livestock market on sale day. With some of his territory entering into a third year of drought, he's seeing an onslaught of cows grace the sale ring as ranchers bring in what remains of their already depleted cowherds. "We have cows here from western Kansas, from Nebraska," said Samples, who operates Farmers and Ranchers Livestock, one of the largest sale barns in the state. "We have cows all the way from Colorado because of the dry weather -- cows that we wouldn't normally be selling this time of year," Samples said In fact, at the barn's monthly cow sale Tuesday just west of Salina, cow numbers were up more than 15 percent from a year ago, which was another drought-plagued year for the record books. Across much of the Midwest, drought has persisted since summer 2010. As drought wore on, ranchers have done the only thing they could as they watched their pastures bake, their feed costs skyrocket and their ponds dry up: They culled their cattle. The number of beef cattle on Kansas feedlots is now at its lowest point in 14 years. On April 1, there were 2.05 million cattle in Kansas feedlots, down 4 percent from a year ago. The parched pastures, along with shriveled corn and hay crops, have made it costlier to feed, as well...more

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