Drought conditions causing ranchers to sell excess cattle

DALHART, TX (KFDA) - The cattle market is being flooded as ranchers continue to push large parts of their herds to market in order to conserve resources due to the drought.

Every Thursday at Cattleman's Livestock in Dalhart, a couple hundred heads of cattle are pushed across the auction block.

As the drought continues, more and more cattle are appearing in auctions as ranchers try to thin their herds.

"The phones really started ringing the last couple weeks," said Cattleman's Livestock owner Curtis Lockhart. "Rains are really spotty. There are a lot of dry areas out there."

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Due to the drought conditions, ranchers are selling off excess cattle in order to save resources.

Lockhart found ranchers are moving herds out of necessity, not for profit.

"You don't want to get rid of your best ones first," said Lockhart. "If you're getting rid of cows, the cow market is not that great right now because there are so many coming to town."

Lockhart knows the industry is struggling when he begins to see heifers cross the block.

"If we get to that level, it will be a desperate situation," said Lockhart. "If you aren't keeping your heifers, your two to three year-old first calfers, I think that will be a sign. We will be in bad shape if it comes to that."

Market analyst Monte Winders says ranchers start to think of any way to reduce their heard.

"If you send more to town now, or some place else, to a feed yard or a sale barn or an auction, and get rid of the cattle, you won't be feeding as many cattle," said Winders.

When herds are thinned out, the affects are noticed in livestock numbers for years to follow.

"It just means that we may not," said Winders. "We may have less numbers of cattle in the next year. Maybe [up to] two years or even three years. Whenever you start moving more heifers to town to get rid of them, so you don't have to feed them or keep them, it's going to show us smaller numbers in the years to come."

The large influx means anyone trying to sell is struggling.

"You get conditions like this, it's not ideal to sell. it's just not a good time, everybody is in the same boat. We're trying to thin our herds, we're trying to cut numbers down."

Market analysts predict if the Texas Panhandle does not get enough precipitation to get us out of the drought, we could be seeing a recurrence of the 2011 to 2012 market year in terms of cattle prices.

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