Jul 24, 2012 8:08 PM by Lacey Steele

Ranchers sell off cattle due to drought

A drought means little rain and, for farmers, little growth.

For ranchers it means high grain prices.

We found out that's trouble for cattle producers.

Poor grazing means more cows will end up at auction, before their time.

"The conditions are just so bad," said Kimmi Lewis, a rancher and past President of the Colorado Independent Cattle Growers. "There's just been no rain."

Ranchers are having to sell off their herds.

Just over one thousand cows sold in this one auction Tuesday at Winter Livestock.

That's twice as many as in an average year.

The cattle business in Southern Colorado hasn't recovered from the drought a decade ago.

"In 2001 and 2002, 25,000 mother cows were sold through the two auction barns here in La Junta, Colorado and pretty well cleaned out a lot of the cow herds here in Southeast Colorado," said Lewis.

Ranchers don't usually sell mother cows until they've produced seven to nine calves.

"You put money into her," said Lewis. "You invest in her as a heifer, and then you hope that you can get that many calves out of her."

Now things have changed, and the cycle is cut short.

"Once the mother cows are gone and the cows leave the area, the economy really dries up because it's the cow herds that drive the economy here." said Lewis.

Sellers and buyers watch as the herds come in to auction, and bidders try for the ones they want at bargain prices.

Those prices hurt the ranchers who sell.

"I just walked in there and saw some bread back cows, median age, selling for 67 cents a pound," said Lewis. "If they had of brought them to the market a month ago, they'd probably been 78 cents a pound."

The message from most ranchers is for everyone to pray for rain.



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