SEGUIN, Texas – The lack of rainfall and dry pastures has forced many Texas ranchers to sell their cattle months in advance.
“I mean, we’re selling the cattle that we should be selling this fall, already,” said Bryan Luensmann, who helps run the livestock auction at Seguin Cattle Company. “When you go to market your livestock, usually you get a desired weight that you try to get them to. And now, (you are selling) just to save the animals. You sell the cow and the calf because there’s no hay to be made.”
The relentless heat once again threatens the Lone Star state’s beef cattle production.
“There’s been good, been bad, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in my life,” said Hilmar Cowey, a beef cattle rancher and farmer from La Vernia. Cower got his start in the beef cattle industry 60 years ago.
“When you’re in agriculture, you’re always concerned,” Cowey said. “If you’re not, there’s something wrong with you, because you’re going to have good and bad (times). And you have to have something to back yourself up when it gets bad.”
Cowey admits that this year the situation is once again dire.
“We would have grazing. Usually, that’s what happens this time of the year,” Cowey said. “But with the drought going on right now, we’re feeding range cubes, and we’re also feeding hay to the cows.”
However, hay has also become scarce, making it harder and more expensive for ranchers to feed their herd.
Although sellers are chasing months in advance, the number of cattle up for auction has decreased over the years.
According to the USDA’s Cattle Inventory Report, the beef cow herd declined by 2% down to 30.1 million cattle.
Luensmann predicts it won’t be long before this year’s drought catches up at the meat counter.
“We’re taking young cows in the prime of their life, and they’re getting turned into hamburger meat,” Luensmann said. “We’re selling them just out of desperation because you don’t want to mistreat the animal and make it starve. So, we’re dispersing herds.”
From personal experience, Cowey and Luensmann are aware it could take years to recover their losses due to the drought.
“We’d get cattle buyers (from Louisiana and Georgia) to buy our young cows and take them back over there,” Luensmann said. “But the freight is so high on them now because of diesel prices. They don’t even come down here and buy them because it cost too much to get them back (home).”