Drought forces ranchers to sell cattle they can't afford to feed

FRESNO, Calif.

Beth Baxley told ABC30, "Because of the drought our sales are about four to five times bigger than they would be this time of year."

Owner Beth Baxley says ranchers are eager, if not desperate to sell.

Rancher John Rodgers says the drought has left them no choice. He said, "This is the worst and I've seen several droughts."

Rodgers says the drought means a lack of grass on the range for the cattle to eat, meaning ranchers have to either buy a lot of expensive hay, or sell their animals.

"Everybody is out of feed and a lot of ranchers are being forced to sell their cow herds that they've spent a lifetime or two generations building up," said Rodgers. "So, it's pretty tough."

In the auction arena, cows and calves are brought in together, and quickly snapped up by eager bidders, and usually sold separately.

"Normally calves would be selling here at this market at May or June and they've started a lot earlier," said Baxley. "We were seeing a lot of calves in January, February, which normally we wouldn't see, so those calves are smaller they are taken off of the cows a little earlier than they would be to try to save that cow."

The calves will likely be sent to feedlots and fattened for slaughter, the mothers sent to slaughter, or shipped to Texas, where their herds were thinned by drought over the past couple of years.

"A lot of cows in the last couple months have gone to Texas because they had to sell their cows, so they are restocking with our cows," Baxley said.

While local ranchers may be forced to sell, there's a shortage of cattle nationwide, and so the prices they are getting are at an all-time high.

Baxley explained, "Prices are strong we call that kind of the light at the end of the tunnel that the cattle market is strong right now that's saving a lot of guys."

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