Drought, less hay forcing Central Texas ranchers to sell cattle

Buyers paying for more cattle despite drought conditions
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 6:51 PM CDT
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WEST, Texas (KWTX) - Cattle rancher Anthony Vybiral, in the business since the 90s, says drought conditions are forcing ranchers like him to “sell smaller.”

During a normal season, calves weigh up to 600 pounds, Vyviral said. Now, the rancher said, “some of them have been weighing 375 to 450 and they’ve been selling them.”

Demand, however, remains high. “It is still very strong throughout these drought conditions,” cattle rancher Trenton Uptmore said. “We’ve been seeing close to 90 to 100 buyers every week.”

Buyers are now paying 15 to 20 cents per pound more compared to the winter months, Uptmore said, even if the cattle are smaller.

“People have to realize that although there might be bad conditions locally, we’re in a global market,” Uptmore said. “The price of cattle that we are receiving is based on what’s going on throughout the country.”

Central Texas ranchers have little hay to feed their cows due to drought conditions. That means some ranchers are now selling their entire herds, including older ones who might not thrive in the drier and hot conditions.

“Some of these ranchers are just totally out of grass, totally out of water,” Uptmore said. “Their backs are against the wall and they don’t have any other option.”

In the coming months, Uptmore expects even higher cattle prices, levels not seen since 2016.

“We’re looking at the highest future prices we’re seeing in the last several years,” Uptmore said. “The writing’s on the wall for how expensive these cattle are going to be once this drought is over.”

For Vybiral, that’s why he’s going to hold on to his herd for as long as he can.

“If we don’t get a rain pretty quick it’s going to be more cows coming to the market and it’s pretty much going to be a disaster.”

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