Thursday, July 28, 2022

'Something's gotta give.' Relentless heat and worsening drought conditions are devastating Texas cattle ranchers


It's a hot July day and a horse rolls around in a patch of dust on Wade Maierhofer's farm in central Texas. A year ago, that same sandy spot was buried under 8 feet of water -- a drinking pond for the rancher's cattle in normal times.

But the pond has since shriveled to a thin layer of algae and sand surrounded by acres of crunchy, dead land. Widespread drought and scorching temperatures are stripping Texas -- and other parts of the country -- of vital water and lush fields needed to sustain livestock.
...Seguin is in Guadalupe County, which is experiencing its second driest year to date of the past 128 years, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.
This part of Texas averages 24 to 48 inches in precipitation annually, according to the Texas Water Development Board. Measurements from the US Geological Survey show Seguin has only received 4 inches of precipitation so far this year.
...The worsening conditions are making it so difficult to maintain healthy cattle that ranchers are selling off cows at a startling pace not seen in more than a decade, foreshadowing troubling trends for consumer prices. With so many cows sold and slaughtered at once, fewer calves will be born next year, which means less beef on the market down the road.
...The auction barn typically doesn't get busy until late fall, but Luensmann said this year, it's been active all summer as ranchers try to lighten their load to save the rest of their herds.
"It's gonna continue this way until it rains, or we sell off the last of the cattle around here," he said.
...A calf would normally bring in $400 to $800 at auction, he said. On Wednesday, he watched his calf sell for $70.
With so many ranchers selling off cattle, the market is flooded and the price for cows has gone down.
Along with his calf, he also sold an older cow on Wednesday, which he said would normally sell for $300 to $900. Guerrero, standing outside of the auction, said he didn't want to know the price at which his cow was sold.
"I don't even want to look," he said.

No comments: