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Beef Prices May Jump As Drought Creates Cattle Surplus

DECATUR (CBSDFW.COM) – For 17 days straight, the Dallas-Fort Worth Area has reached triple digit temperatures.

With the hot weather and lack of rain, nearly the entire state remains in a serious or severe drought. Currently, 246 of Texas's 254 counties are under a burn ban.

That is creating a surplus in the number of cattle heading to auction, as livestock owners can't afford to feed them and are looking to sell.

Jess Elrod, of Sanger, has been in the cattle business all of his life, but right now, keeping his cows seems to cost more than they're worth.

"The hay prices and feed prices have gone up and the grass is all burned up. There's nothing to eat," he said. "The grass is like it is in December or January, and the grass that's left doesn't have any protein in it. Anything that you can do without needs to go to town."

That's why Elrod and many other cattle raisers are thinning out their herds by taking some to market early.

"We typically run between 1,200 to 1,500 a week," said Roland Davie, of Decatur Livestock Market. "Today we'll be close to 3,000. Last week we were at 2,700."

On a typical week there would be about three full cattle pins at the Market, but Monday, they had to use more than double that because of the heat index.

Operators asked some ranchers to wait a week before bringing their cattle in.

"We can take more cattle. We have a capacity to take 3,500 to 4,000," Davie said. "But as hot as it is we didn't feel like it was best for the cattle."

Some cowmen said they won't be able to wait much longer because their pastures just aren't producing without rain.

"I'm holding right now, but I don't know, if I don't get some water, can't hold, can't keep on a holding," said Larry Springfield, a cattle raiser in Springtown. "They're out of feed, they're out of pasture, they're out of water, so what else are you going to do with them."

Ultimately, the drought will affect what customers will pay for beef at the grocery store, cattle owners said.

Since a mature cow only has one calf per year, it will take years for the ranchers to rebuild their herds. That could cause the price of beef go up as early as the end of this year.

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