Cattle Ranchers Come Up Dry

The 50 truckloads of hay donated to Texas ranchers is more symbol than sustenance, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod. The hay will buy cattleman Gene Simmons another week at best.

"It's kind of a Band-Aid," he says. "If anything, it helped our spirits."

Simmons has already written off this year and sold half of his herd at big losses. Now he is starting to wonder about next year.

"We're going to ride it as long as we can," he says. "But you get to the point where there's no need throwing good money after bad. It's better to take your licking and just quit."

Normally, Simmons would now be planting seeds to grow feed crops to take his herd through next spring. However, if there is no rain in the next two weeks, the seed will stay in the shed and there won't be a herd next spring.

"If we can't get some rain there's not much hope for next year," he says.

Cattle feed on limited supplies of hay


Texas ranchers have watched helplessly as the drought has plowed through their herds. In this state, the cattle business is down $451 million dollars -- a figure that could easily double.

For now they have only barren fields, hungry cows and many questions.

"What do you do when it's all gone?" Asks Simmons. "How do you come back? Does it break your spirit? Do you want to come back?"

These days, however, everywhere Texas cattle ranchers look for answers they come up dry.

Reported by Jim Axelrod
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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