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As grass and water supply dwindle, ranchers are selling off cattle

As grass and water supply dwindle, ranchers are selling off cattle
As grass and water supply dwindle, ranchers are selling off cattle 01:50

DECATUR, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - North Texas ranchers are selling off cattle by the thousands as grass and water disappear during an expanding summer drought.

Videos spread on social media Saturday and Sunday, showing trucks and trailers lined up for miles outside of livestock markets.

At the Decatur Livestock Market, owner Kimberly Irwin said trucks were stacked a mile in each direction, eventually unloading more than 2,600 animals. It's the highest numbers they've seen going back to the extreme drought and heat of 2011. 

Grass has stopped growing with no rain and 100 degree temperatures. Grasshoppers have reportedly been destroying what's available in some counties. Stock ponds are now starting to run low on water as well.

The USDA released a report Monday showing 83% of pasture and range land is now considered to be in poor to very poor condition.

"You know, you want to hang on, but it's just hard," Irwin said Monday.

Most of the cows being sold have been older she said, with owners hoping they can hang on to younger animals and make it until conditions change. As they start to get thinner though, they won't yield as much at market, leaving owners with a difficult decision.

"I don't think it can break quick enough to save me, to tell the truth," said Lee McLachlin, who drove up to Decatur from Springtown on Monday. 

He was watching to see what the market was like, holding off as long as he can with his own cows, but knowing even a good rain now wouldn't do much to bring the grass back quickly. He's concerned about hay availability as well for later in the year, with prices now already running over $100 for a bale.

Usually there are some local buyers at the Decatur sale, Irwin said, taking a few cows back home. Lately though almost all the buyers have been meatpackers. With demand for cattle still high, she expects the sell off to continue, at least in the short term unless conditions improve.

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