Extreme drought conditions are forcing area ranchers to decide whether or not to keep their livestock. As conditions worsen, rancher Frank McLelland says all ranchers in the region are struggling to keep cattle healthy.
"It's all dry grass. Nothing is green, so the nutritional value is so low that we have to sell our calves early," McClellan said. "And when we sell our calves they are going to weigh much less, which means the profits are lower."
Providing the cattle with drinking water is also a challenge.
"Many ranchers have dirt tanks that have gone dry, and when that happens the cattle search for water and it's just dirt, so they get stuck in the mud," McLelland said.
Ranchers say there cattle are constantly wandering looking for something green. "There wanting to get out cause they think there's something green and there's not," McLelland explained.
McLelland drove us through his ranch land and there was not an ounce of green grass in site.
"None of it is green, every bit of it is dry like this every bit of it," McLelland said.
The grass is so dry that its nutritional value is almost obsolete. "It doesn't have the protein and energy they require to gain weight and to thrive, not just survive," McLelland continued.
With no rain in site ranchers fear the worst. "We're going to have to reduce our herd," McLelland said. "Well wean our calves early and ship them away get them off of these cows and that will release some stress for the cows. That way they wont be nursing anymore and that will help."
However, selling the calves who have been eating mostly dry grass two months early will cause the sale value to drop.
"The calves will be much lighter, and we sell them by the pound," McLelland explained.
Ranchers say the one thing the cattle cant live without is water. "Keeping water in front of them at all times which is so important in the extreme heat we have," McLelland said.
Some ranchers have well water but others depend on dirt tanks to survive and a lot of them are running out of water. "If you don't have water doesn't matter how much grass you have, you need water," McLelland explained.
As a result many farmers are moving their cattle to places with water but experts say the cattle risk water intoxication.
"When we have heat stress, water consumption increases so cattle over consume when they finally have access, which can be fatal," Beef Cattle Specialist Ted McCollum said.
McCollum says if the water doesn't fall from the sky soon it could ultimately affect you.
"If this continues we will have fewer cattle to produce beef in the future. So two years down the road we could still feel the impacts on a national basis because of the reduced beef supply," McCollum said.
"We need rain," McLelland said.
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