Drought Devastates Local Livestock Ranchers

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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July 12, 2011

When you think of the extreme drought conditions in Southern Kansas, you often think of the damage it does to crops like wheat and soybeans. Today's livestock auction in Anthony, however, is proof positive that the cattle industry is suffering just as badly.

"There's just nothing for them to eat," said one rancher from Oklahoma who drove to Anthony for a sale.

"We are now out of grass," explained Bobbi Olivier. "We are out of water and conditions are not looking better so we really have no choice."

Olivier choked up as she explained that she was bringing 100 head of cattle to be sold off Tuesday. Not too long ago, Olivier had 500 head of cattle. After today's sale, she'll have just 28 animals left. Her streams and ponds are almost dry. The lack of rain means hay feed isn't growing. What grass does grow quickly dies in the blistering heat.

"We live on the Chikaskia River and we've always had water... plenty of grass and water" Olivier said. "This year, both are gone. The river is just barely running about a three foot wide stream three inches deep and in my entire lifetime, I've never seen it like this."

Ranchers from Oklahoma and Missouri came to Anthony to buy cattle at cheaper prices, but Chuck Thompson says the sellers are still able to make a profit right now.

"The feeder cows are really high, so that's helping you guys in the dry area," Thompson said. "If they were cheap, then they'd be losing a lot of money, but now they're holding their money together and they can sell and still get some money out of them."

Some ranchers have been hauling their livestock water and hay for several weeks, but that isn't feasible over the long term because it becomes way too expensive. Most of the natural water sources in Southern Kansas are quickly becoming stagnant and infected with bacteria.

With today's sale, the Olivier Ranch is now nearly empty of cows that have been in their family for generations.

"It's really hard," Olivier said. "Really hard. Our father has been gone just over a year and this is a very sad day for us."

By the end of the day on Tuesday, the Anthony livestock barn expected to sell 5,000 head of cattle at auction.

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