Local ranchers and meat markets say the price of beef is going up and will continue to rise over the next few years, and the drought is to blame.
"I don't know how it could be any worse," said Gary McDaniel, a rancher in Post for more than 20 years. "There's just nothing to eat out here. We had a huge mesquite bean crop on the trees this year and that's what packed these cows. A lot of people are completely out of water, including me in several pastures."
The price of feeds like hay and corn has skyrocketed, and with good pasture land virtually gone ranchers like McDaniel are left with two options. They can either sell off their herds or ship their cattle to greener pastures.
McDaniel says as the expenses build up, many are selling early to feedlots and packers, causing massive cattle liquidation. But he says he's going to extremes to hold on to his.
"I sent 400 cows to Wyoming and I've spent $30,000 trucking them there. I've got another 100 in Post that will have to go somewhere," he said.
On average McDaniel keeps more than 600 cows, and luckily he has only had to sell 150 of his older herd that he would normally keep. In all it's still a major loss, he says.
"I'm looking at a $150,000 loser on it, but I don't know how I'll ever be able to replace these cows when it goes back to raining," he said.
A wise decision if you're willing to take the loss now. With ranchers selling off their cattle and sending calves earlier to the feedlots, a shortage of cattle in the next few years is expected.
"It's going to hit consumers terribly. Beef prices are already really high, and I see across the board in any kind of meat it will be unbelievably expensive next year. These ranchers, when they go back to trying to restock, I have no idea what a cow's going to cost them," said McDaniel.
McDaniel also says exported beef is causing a high market as people here in the U.S. are forced to compete for meat with other countries.
So even if their rain prayers are answered, McDaniel says the next few years will be rough ones for ranchers. "I'll do whatever I can just to hang on to them," he said.
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