Texas ranchers rush to sell livestock due to drought

SEGIN, Texas – Lack of rainfall and dry pastures is forcing many Texas ranchers to sell their livestock months in advance.

“I mean, we’re already selling the cattle we’re supposed to be selling this fall,” said Brian Luensmann, who helps run the cattle auction at the Seguin Cattle Company. “When you go to market with your cattle, you usually get the desired weight that you are trying to achieve. And now (you sell) just to save the animals. You are selling a cow and a calf because you can’t get hay.”

A relentless heatwave is once again threatening beef cattle production in the Lone Star State.

“It’s been good, it’s been bad, and I’ve seen a lot of change in my life,” said Hilmar Cowie, a beef rancher and farmer in La Vernia. Cower began beef cattle farming 60 years ago.

“When you’re farming, you’re always worried,” Cowie said. “If not, then something is wrong with you, because you will have good and bad (times). And you should have something to support yourself when things get bad.”

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Cowie admits things are dire again this year.

“We would have pasture. That’s usually what happens at this time of year,” Cowie said. “But due to the drought that’s going on right now, we’re feeding dice and we’re also feeding hay to the cows.”

However, hay also became scarce, making it harder and more expensive for ranchers to feed their flock.

Although sellers are chasing months ahead, the number of cattle offered for auction has declined over the years.

According to USDA Cattle Inventory Report.the number of beef cows decreased by 2% to 30.1 million heads.

Luensmann predicts that this year’s drought will not keep meat stalls waiting.

“We take young cows in their prime and turn them into hamburger meat,” Luensmann said. “We sell them out of desperation because you don’t want to mistreat an animal and make it starve. So we’re dispersing the herds.”

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Cowie and Luensmann know from personal experience that drought losses can take years to recover.

“We asked cattle buyers (from Louisiana and Georgia) to buy our young cows and bring them back,” Luensmann said. “But their freight is so high right now because of diesel prices. They don’t even come here and buy them because it costs too much to get them back (home).”

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