Drought sends prices of feed and hay skyrocketing; ranchers forced to sell livestock

ABILENE, Texas - Lack of rainfall in recent years has caused the selloff of millions of animals. It's also nearly doubled the prices of feed and hay.

Big Country rancher Billy Flint said the drought has taken its toll.

"Hay is expensive, feed is real expensive," Flint said. "You're having to sell a lot of cattle. You're not having the land to run them on, not having the grazing.".

The number of cattle has nosedived in the last two years.

"Even though we've gotten some relief recently, our pastures and cattle numbers are really low because we just haven't had the ability to restock our pastures due to the drought," said Robert Pritz, extension agent for agriculture for Taylor County.

Slaughter has also slowed significantly, even resulting in last week's closing of Cargill Beef, which is a meatpacking plant in Plainview that employed 2,000 workers.

"The closing of Cargill in the panhandle is a prime example of low cattle numbers across the state and the nation," Pritz said.

Pritz said the closing could send the price of beef skyrocketing.

"As we start to get out of the drought, and start to increase our cattle number, you could see a bottleneck in the production style because of the closing and that could cause higher prices at the local retail level as well," Pritz said.

Pritz also added that things will not turn around until the area receives better weather and growing conditions.

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