As the drought conditions in Arkansas continue to worsen, farmers and ranchers watch their fields turn brown and water sources shrink. A few weeks ago, I shared a few photos from my family’s fields on CNN.
Despite more numerous spotty showers, this week’s drought monitor update shows the drought only intensifying in Arkansas and across the country. The D4 – Exceptional Drought is the highest category on the scale.
Reporter Karen Brown (@KarenBrownCBS) from CBS News made a visit to my family’s cattle auction this week to learn more.
White County rancher and family friend, Bill Pruitt, shared a few thoughts with Brown, showed his bare, brown pastures, and explained how his cattle herd has been cut in half as he has already started feeding winter’s supply of hay.
Our cattle auction has been selling 2- and 3-times the number of cattle compared to what should be average for this time of year (Story on DTN). Many farmers are being forced to sell-off their cows because the grass is gone, hay crops are little to none, feeding costs are expensive to carry cows through the winter.
In many cases, the best move the farmers can make is to cull deep – selling the older, less productive cows, retaining the youngest, best cows and managing the feed cost the best way possible. However, several farmers are choosing to sell-off entire herds.
My dad explained that compared to last year’s numbers, more than double the number of mature cows are going through the auction, and the calves being sold are younger and lighter-weight. Only time will tell if these farmers will buy cattle back once the rains return.
Fortunately, the markets have been held up to a certain extent by out-of-state buyers. Our auction broadcasts the sale live online and have had many farmers place orders for loads of cattle to be sent to other states where there is more feed available. Replacement cow markets have stayed very strong. Here is the market report from our auction barn for this week.
The state chooses not to report numbers from our cattle auction (which puzzles me for the number of cattle going through our barn, that’s a lot of cattle sales ($) not being included in the reports), but here are numbers from other sales around the state. Be sure to note the difference in head counts from sales a year ago.