Nebraska cattle auctioneers say that extended drought conditions are pushing cattle producers to sell, and some ranchers and industry experts say they anticipate a feed shortage in coming months.
"We're not going to have corn or soybeans like we did because of the drought. We're going to be short on bushels, the grain is going to be higher, and the supply is going to be lower, and with a higher price for these commodities, there's not going to be the ethanol byproduct that we normally do, and we're not going to have the stalks to feed," observed Dewey Lienemann, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension Educator for Webster County.
The present and anticipated lack of hay and feed is forcing producers to make tough decisions, often to sell.
"If you don't have feed, you have to feed your animals to take care of them, then you have to look at some alternatives, is to of course get rid of the cattle that you don't find as functional or economically feasible," Lienemann said.
All of which means that the number of cattle showing up on the auction block is on the rise.
"It's probably triple now of what it would normally be. Normally, June, July, August is our slow months. You need to run every other week because of that, and we went back to every week sales because the numbers are increased, so the customers have a way to get rid of them, and some place to go without waiting two or three weeks," explained Roy Montgomery, manager of Blue Hill and Alma Livestock.
And even though you're paying more for beef at the grocery store now, the cattle are fetching less at auction.
There might be some areas that might be as much as 30% down; I'd say 20 is more, is more fair," Montgomery opined.