Continuing Drought Forces Livestock Producers To Downsize

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Continuing drought conditions are forcing some Kansas livestock producers to downsize small herds, resorting to a livestock sell-off, because it’s too costly not to. Livestock auction managers say they’re seeing some cattle being sold earlier than normal.

Livestock producer Larry Nutsch says, "Yea, we're coming in 45 to 60 days early. The weight gains have dropped tremendously."

And when cattle lose weight, the producer loses money.

"Well, we're seeing cattle, especially here in the last two weeks,” says RB Cattle Company buyer Richard Behrends, “that cattle are coming off of grass because the producers are out of grass or out of water or both."

Sometimes, it’s the landowner asking renters to move livestock off because the landowner doesn’t want the grass damaged beyond its ability to recover when rains return.

"If we don't get rain in the next 30 to 60 days we damage our grass tremendously for next summer," says Behrends.

Some of you city folks might just think this is rural problem effecting ranchers and farmers. But think again. The drought issues causing these ranchers to bring their herds to market early will impact the price you pay for a hamburger or steak eventually.

In the short-term, meat prices are actually expected to go down, because more livestock is coming to the market. But in the long-term, prices will rise, because the cattle sold are lighter, being sold earlier, plus some cows won’t produce a calf, which would later be sold.

"We brought cattle in off grass early probably 30 days early out of an area in the Flint Hills which just didn't catch any rain this summer and they come up 60 to 70 pounds light," says livestock producer Greg Wolf. "The longer we're out there, the worse it's getting."

It isn’t what they want, but they’re managing herds according to the supply of grass and feed they can afford.

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