Cattle Ranchers Wrestle With Costs From Drought

Everest and elgin



The recent drought is threatening more than the crops and the people who count on them for jobs.

It's also affecting livestock, in a big way.

Cattle ranchers say the situation is so bad, the crisis is hitting their pocketbookstwice.

"Those cattle have nothing to graze on now," says Randy Perry.

He is an Animal Sciences Professor at Fresno State, and a Cattle Rancher.

"There's no way to budget for a year like this. It's really expensive."

Perry says that until now, a lot of ranchers had been able to get by on giving their cattle a lower-quality feed.

But now, those supplies are running out.

So, instead of paying $80 to $100 for a ton of cornstalks and straw, some are now paying $200 a ton for Bermuda hay.

Others are even buying Alfalfa hay, which costs as much as $250 a ton.

"You can only afford to feed the cattle for so long. Then you'd burn up any profit the cattle would have in them," Perry says.

He adds that ponds on properties have also dried up.

A lot of those ponds were below normal on rainfall last year, and this has forced some to haul water onto their properties.

Perry says, "and that's expensive. It's bad enough to haul feed, but when you have to haul water, it's cost- prohibitive."

Whether it's beef or dairy cattle, it is big money across Fresno County.

The Crop and Livestock Report by the Fresno County Ag Commissioner's office reports that in 2012, Cattle was worth a combined $380 million.

Perry adds that for every dollar of cattle that is sold, another seven dollars go back into the economy in different sectors, like transportation or helping to produce even more feed.

Perry tells us that if there is *any* silver lining, it's that beef prices are high.

So, if people need to sell off their animals, at least they are worth good money.

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