Economists are saying the drought is causing the biggest decline in cattle numbers in Texas history. It's estimated cow numbers have dropped by 600,000 across the state, and as a result beef prices will rise next year.
"It was a challenging year for sure," said Idalou rancher Randy McGee. "It was tough all the way around. There was a shortage of hay just as there was a shortage of grass. Prices of hay were through the roof this year."
McGee has been raising cattle for 15 years, but this year was especially hard on him and his ranching buddies. "Farmers and ranchers simply didn't have the feed to provide the cattle so they've been forced to sell them earlier and in some cases liquidate their herds altogether," he said.
Since the first of the year there's been a 12% decrease in the 5 million cattle in Texas. While some were moved out of state, most were sold into feedlots waiting for slaughter.
"Just looking around in this area and the South Plains where cattle used to be, you just don't see them anymore. I think that the people who do have them it will be a wise investment in the future," said McGee.
With fewer cattle, come higher beef prices. It's estimated beef prices will jump 5.5% next year because of the shortage. "There's not expected to be as many beef numbers on hand for the next couple of years. It'll take several years for those herds to come back," said McGee. "Simple supply and demand: There'll be less beef and still high demand for it so in turn you'll see higher prices for it in the future."
Even when the drought dies down, the rancher woes won't be gone as they try to replenish their liquidated herds. "When pastures start coming back ranchers will be looking for cattle. It's going to make the prices go up on them and they'll be very expensive to get the cattle back to where a rancher can get back I the cow calf operation again," he said.
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