Ongoing Drought Raises Cattle Demand, Lowers Supply

Thanks to the ongoing drought, it is the best of times and the worst of times for the cattle business in South Texas. On one hand, cattle prices are high; but there are fewer cattle.

Rodney Butler, owner and manager of the Beeville Livestock Commission, said the cattle market is strong due to the fact that there's not a whole lot of cattle in the area. Simply put, the supply is short and the demand is high.

Butler said he has seen the head count of cattle being sold at auction go down and down in recent years, with lots of empty pens come auction time. He said lots of cattle ranchers have sold down their herds by half, or they've sold out completely and gotten out of the business; and because cattle prices are so high, the cost of restocking and getting back into the business is so high that many simply are not doing it.

Butler added that many ranchers figure it is too much of a gamble to buy the expensive cattle on the hope that we will get enough rainfall, because what happens if we don't?

"If we get the rains and the grass comes back and the pastures recover, maybe you know in, I don't know, maybe four to five years, six years maybe, we'll have, the land will be stocked again with cattle and we can go from there," Butler said. "But time will tell."

Butler has been owner and manager of the Beeville Livestock Commission since 1989. He said he used to be constantly busy working cattle, and now it's extremely slow; and for a man who makes his living in the cattle business, he calls this a scary situation.

Even though the prices are high right now for cattle, which is a good thing for Butler's business, he knows that is a short-term benefit, and not sustainable over the long term if the volume of cattle doesn't begin to rise.


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