Ongoing drought conditions have driven ranchers across Texas to sell their cattle at rates unusually faster and higher than in previous years.
This past week, the number of stock ranchers who headed to Decatur Livestock Market to sell their cattle was noticeably more than expected.
Kimberly Irwin told WFFA that the reason behind this surge in cattle sales is the ongoing drought. Irwin, one of the livestock market owners, has operated the business since 2015.
The cattle market reported that last week, ranchers brought more than 2,500 head of cattle to sell. Roughly corresponding to a 50% increase from a typical week’s amount of 1,500 head.
One rancher from Covington headed to the market to buy and sell.
The rancher, Martin Muñoz, told WFFA, “I need some money. I’ve got a family I need to feed. I need to swap in some cattle.”
Muñoz is struggling to secure water to feed his cattle. His water tank has been continually low since last year’s drought. Grass has also been in short supply as a result of the lack of rain.
Pasture conditions in Texas are very poor due to severe drought. Some regions have only received 7.5 inches of rain in 2022 so far. Without sufficient water, grass cannot grow to the proper height for hay bailing. Farmers must then spend extra to outsource for feed.
“Everything depends on the next rain. No rain means no pasture; no pasture means no hay; no hay means the cow prices go down, and the hay prices go up,” Curtis Timmons, Central Texas rancher and owner of the Country Spring Vineyard, told KWTX.
Timmons was another rancher who had to sell cattle stock to cope with the increased hay prices.
“We usually keep 15 to 20 head of cattle; we sold two-thirds of them because we didn’t feel like we could feed them through the winter. Couldn’t afford or find the hay,” Timmons said.
Hay prices have risen as much as 60% since April. Now, ranchers are paying more than twice as much as they previously paid for a bale of hay.
“There’s good hay out there that’s $80 and above this year,” Timmons said. Last year a bale of hay cost $40, $50, or $60.
“2011 was pretty tough, but it wasn’t as hot as this or as long. We didn’t have the rain, but we didn’t have the 90 days of triple-digit weather,” Link said.
The future livelihoods of many Texan cattle ranchers depend on the amount of rainfall in the coming months.
“If we get two or three more years of this [drought] in a row, it’s really gonna get tough,” Link explained.