Lack of rain was definitely a big problem for some parts of the country last year. The effects had a big impact on a larger portion of the nation and were expected to be felt for years to come. Now – a drought is stretching across a record-breaking one-thousand-sixteen counties in the U.S. As was the case for cattle producers in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 – ranchers are finding it difficult to feed their cattle. As a result – they are reducing their herds and selling their cattle to avoid the mounting losses caused by this widespread drought. The New York Times reports that the town of Torrington, Wyoming is an example of just how bad the situation has become. Normally – the Torrington Livestock Markets would be quiet on a Wednesday in the summer months. But they are doing four times as much early-season business as usual. In fact – they auctioned off more than 17-thousand head of cattle last month – compared with around 33-hundred in June of 2011.
Ranchers are losing money – in some cases hundreds of dollars for each animal they sell early – because they are younger and lighter than those fed all summer on prairie grass. For some that will mean the difference between profit and loss. One producer at Torrington said it would take two to three years to recover. He says people are cutting down – but if the drought continues for another year – it could put a lot of people out of business.
The impact could be felt at the supermarket as well. Experts note the sale of cows and calves that otherwise would have produced more cows and calves could ultimately reduce beef production and drive prices higher. USDA most recently projected American beef production to fall by about one-billion pounds this year as compared to 2011. A USDA cattle analyst says U.S. cattle inventories are the lowest they’ve been in several decades. Any plans producers had to expand their herds went out the window with the resurrected drought.