Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Severe drought conditions leads to record cattle sell off

TEXOMA – A record cattle selloff took place, Friday, in southwest Oklahoma in large part due to this year's record drought causing havoc on local agriculture.

There is precious little water for herds to drink. The same goes for hay, not enough to feed them. That has forced farmers and ranchers to sell, so cattle sales are skyrocketing and far earlier than usual. In fact, the Apache Auction Market in Caddo County says its sales of livestock have more than doubled.

The situation looks bleak. The auction house was extremely busy today, even making a possible record selloff. The crowd was a mix of people looking to buy and others to sell.

7News is told a typical Friday sale would mean anywhere from 700 to 800 cattle. But today, they expected to sell more than double that; some 1800 to 2000 cattle.

"I am a small operator compared to the big guys, but I have the same decision to make. I have got to decided whether to start into my hay stores or whether to sell cattle before long," said Rep. Don Armes, (R)-Faxon.

Armes has owned cattle for almost 30 years. Today, he was one of the farmers forced to sell their livestock.

"A lot of cattle producers in this country are what we call ‘cow-calf operators'. And their product at the end is a calf that that cow has raised. They sell that calf to go on wheat pasture or a feed lot and that cow remains. That cow is the factory. We're selling the factories," said Armes.

7News decided to head to the Apache Auction Market to see how much cattle was being sold and why. While many of the farmers were reluctant to talk on camera they did say that the record drought forced them to sell. 7News also spoke with auction owner Bob Rodenberger who says they typically sell up to 160,000 cattle a year, but he has never seen this many on a single Friday.

"Normally we'll sell 700 to 800 cows on a Friday and we're selling 1800 to 2000 cows and it's just strictly due to drought," said Rodenberger.

Rodenberger says this drought is wreaking havoc on livestock owners.

"People running out of grass, running out of water and that's basically what it is," said Rodenberger.

Rodenberger says that coupled with the high cost of feed can ruin a livestock business. Armes knows firsthand what farmers are up against.

"It's a really bad situation and I think the day of reckoning is going to be bad. At some point were going to look up and very few cow numbers in southwest Oklahoma and north Texas," said Armes.

Many of the farmers say that the answer to their problems is rain, but that is not looking too promising. Armes says that right now, southwest Oklahoma is about a foot behind in rain.

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