CROCKETT, Texas, Aug 24 – With nearly all of Texas in a drought, ranchers are sending more and more cattle to slaughter, a trend that is likely to push up beef prices in the long run due to dwindling supplies from the country’s largest cattle breeding region in region of United States.
As of mid-July, more than 93% of Texas is in drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor. By mid-August, more than 26% of Texas was at its peak, characterized by widespread loss of pasture and crops, as well as water shortages.
While conditions are particularly acute in Texas, about 54% of all U.S. cattle were in some form of drought as of Aug. 16, up from 36% a year earlier. Cattle culls are high nationwide, temporarily boosting supply but predicting tighter supplies in future years. Read more
Paul Craycraft, co-owner of East Texas Livestock Auction in Crockett, said dry rangelands deprive cattle of an important source of food while making it more expensive for farmers to supplement their herds with hay and forage.
“We’ve had, I don’t know how many, 100 degree (38 C) days and here you see, you know, the grass is gone,” Craycraft said. “The cows are starting to lose weight. The cows are weak because there’s no protein. So we’re getting rid of a lot of cows.”
About 75% of cows sold at auction in the past two months were sent to the slaughterhouse, Craycraft said, up from 30% to 40% in normal years.
Wesley Ratcliff, founder of Caney Creek Ranch in Oakwood, said he began selling 50 of his 500 cows early this year as the drought worsened.
“They were older mom cows and maybe they left and had another baby for us,” Ratcliff said. “But rather than wait for them to have another child, we went to send them to the meat factory.
Texas A&M University agricultural economist David Anderson said consumers can expect higher prices in the long run because of what’s happening in Texas, which has more than 4.5 million beef cows, or 14% of the U.S. supply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“There will be pressure over the next few years for higher prices, higher cattle prices and higher beef prices as they play out,” Anderson said. “We’re going to face tighter beef supplies. And tighter beef supplies, if nothing else, means higher prices.”