Drought Forcing Farmers to Sell Herds

Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - You've been seeing the images for days, rain, rain, and more rain flooding roads, towns, and even fields.

This extreme weather in Texas and neighboring states may actually save farmers here dealing with the drought.

Bureau Chief Stephen McLamb explains.

Farmers are selling their cattle because there's not much green in the fields for them to eat. But stockyard officials say many of them will go to the Midwest where the land is flat and grain to feed them is plentiful
Because rain is abundant there, it's helping to hold up the selling price for farmers locally.

Dick Daugherty has been a cattle farmer for many years and says this year’s lack of rainfall is one of the tougher ones. "We had a couple of years back in the eighties and one in the seventies that were dry and we're just beginning to see how bad it's going to be."

Little rainfall has turned the fields to the color usually seen in the winter, so Daugherty tried to find hay. "The fella I usually buy hay from wouldn't even price it to me."

So now he's decided to get rid of half his stock. "We're selling before we had planned to sell because we're out of forage."

Stockyard officials are out taking video of cattle getting them ready for sale, something they say is odd for this time of year.

"Normally have a lot of grass, pasture, feeds cheap,” says Mark Houston, from East Tennessee Livestock Center. “We're looking at, I'd guess, most markets are about twenty to forty percent more."

With the lack of pasture and hay, Daughtery says he won't be buying any replacement cattle later this year, which will hurt next year. "We won't have 50,000 pounds to sell and we won't have around sixty pregnant heifers to sell."

But a bright side to selling cattle is selling prices are remaining good because where they're going has had plenty of rain.

"Major feeding areas, grazing areas Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska they've had a lot of rain so that's been a blessing for us that there has been a demand for our livestock,” Houston explains.

Houston says some farmers will decide to try to make it through the winter but it will be tough as corn prices have nearly doubled because of the demand for ethanol.

If the rainfall turns around, Houston says he expects there will be a large demand for replacement cattle next year.

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