Drought forcing ranchers to sell off cattle early at a loss

The heat is taking a toll on the cattle ranching industry in North Texas, forcing owners to sell earlier than normal.

Because of the drought, the Decatur Livestock Market has seen almost twice the number of cattle being brought in. Conditions are forcing ranchers to sell their cattle too soon and is costing them thousands.

With the hot and dusty weather, ranchers are going to auctions early and selling their cattle at a loss.

“A good cow was bringing $1,300 to $1,400 just a few months ago,” said cattle rancher Jody Henderson. “Now, you can buy them for $900-$950.”

Without rain, pastures have little or no grass. Hay production is down and doubling the cost of feeding cattle. Water is also drying up.

Martha Shafer normally waits until October to sell her cattle at a good price. Without rain, her family can't wait that long.

“Pond getting too muddy for cows to get in safely,” the rancher said. “It's dry. We need rain."

Ranchers make allowances by leasing other land, but moving to greener pastures isn't an option this year.

"We got lease land in a few different places,” Shafer said. “We got lease land in Brownwood and Parker County as well as Palo Pinto county. But it is dry."

It's been worse.

“2011 was one of the toughest years. People were hauling water,” Henderson recalled. “It’s the same situation we're fixing to get into, but we got a little time if we get rainfall. Rain's the answer."

It's hard to be a cattle rancher without being an optimist.

“Guess I have to take into account I love doing cattle, love doing horses,” said rancher Jessica Bearden. “If I lose some money, which I did today, at least I’m doing what I love."

It's all about bringing in well fed cattle to get the best price for the ranchers who need the rain.