Drought Driving Up Cattle Sales

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At livestock auctions these days, people are seeing more and more young calves. Ranchers say the drought is forcing them to downsize their herds and sell their calves earlier than normal.

"The weights of the calves we're selling is a little bit smaller than normal, things like that, so you're getting a little bit less per calf, but you're not having to take care of them quite as long," said Jeremy Wetovich of Fullerton.

"All our costs as far as replacements, feed, hay, everything's higher than it was last year," added Clay Forbes of Palmer.

Auction houses reported that prices were steady for the time, but ranchers said they believe the current conditions aren't sustainable. Most of all, they said they're worried about the consequences of a continued drought.

"If we don't get plenty of rain this next year, our stocking rates are probably going to be down to half or maybe a third in our pastures, and I mean, if everybody has that situation where they can only have a third to half as many cows in their pastures, that really affects your whole operation. You have to be selling younger cows and cows you normally wouldn't sell, and trying to get by with that many less calves to sell next year," Wetovich said.

"If the drought keeps going, if we don't get some moisture, you're going to see a lot of these people will be forced to sell their younger cows at a later date. If we don't get some moisture, probably February or March, if things don't get better for us," said Ken Rieken of the Fullerton Livestock Market.

Ranchers were also concerned that their elected representatives aren't getting them the help they need.

"It's just a little bit scary when they can't get stuff passed and agree on it," said Wetovich, referring to the farm bill. "And when you're going through really drought-type conditions, you need some of that help to help you get by so you don't go broke."

For now, many said they've just got to hang on for as long as they can.

"We've had good years the last couple of years, but things are going to get a lot more scary in the next year if we don't get some rain and it stays as dry as it has been," said Wetovich.