July 12, 2011
Texas' drought causes ranchers to sell cattle
Central Texas cattle ranchers are getting rid of their cattle in high numbers because of the drought, failure to grow grass and surging feed prices.
At Jordan Cattle Auction in Mason County, 3,000 cattle went up for bidding on Monday (Jul 11) morning. It is one of the biggest auctions ever.
"We are hurting for grass," said Willard Jordan, owner of Jordan Cattle Auction. "A lot of people do not want to buy the feed to feed them anymore."
Traffic outside of his auction house was backed up with ranchers dropping off their cattle on Sunday (Jul 10).
"I waited three hours," said John Hever, a rancher from Stonewall. "I have never seen it like that."
Hever said he had 80 head of cattle and is now down to 20. If dry conditions continue, he thinks he will be down to half of that in a few weeks.
Despite working off commission, Jordan is not happy to see this huge sell off.
"We see so many people selling their herds like selling your factory," Jordan explained.
Jordan said without mature cattle to spawn babies, the whole industry is at risk.
Right now, representatives from packing houses from as far away as Oregon are there to buy the cattle
"What is going to happen next year?" Jordan questioned. "You have to look down the road."
Ron Crocker, a local rancher from Mason came to the auction to buy cattle.
He said that big runs at auction will mean slightly cheaper purchasing prices, but he is thinking long term.
"If all the calf boys go out of business then I do not have any cattle left to buy, so I am not happy to see these big runs," explained Crocker.
Crocker said there will always be demand for cattle and that next year he does not anticipate ranchers to see a profit.
"When this flush of cattle is gone, next spring when we are trying to put cattle on our ranches and grass, they are going to be terribly expensive and we probably will not make any money," Crocker added.
Hever is importing hay to maintain his 20 remaining heads. But importing hay is costing him US$4 a mile when it is transported. He is not sure how much longer he can pay those prices before he has to sell off what remains of his herd.
Auctions are also being held at Jordan Cattle Auction's other location in San Saba.