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No Rain Causing Higher Beef Prices

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - More than half of Texas' agricultural income comes from the beef industry. The demand for beef is at a record high but the statewide drought is driving up the cost.

Bill Wight from Odessa is a third-generation cattle rancher. To him, ranching is the good life.

He says, "I love being outdoors and out in the elements and there just aren't many parts of it that I don't like."

However, over the past year, business has been a bit tougher than usual.

"The last good rain we had was a year ago in July and since then its been horribly dry," Wight said.

The worst drought to ever hit Texas has been going strong for a year now and it's not expected to let up anytime soon.

Dr. Jason Sawyer is an Associate Professor of Beef Cattle Nutrition at Texas A&M.

"The general lack of precipitation has caused a lack in our forage reserves," Sawyer said.

No food means fewer cows.

"Many producers have made the decision to go ahead and sell cows rather than try to import feed to sustain them," Sawyer said.

Wight is one of those producers.

"We've gotten rid of a third of [our cows] and we'll probably get rid of another third of them before the winter's over," Wight said.

More cows are disappearing from Texas ranches than ever before. Texas AgriLife Extension Service says we've seen a 12-15% statewide drop in cattle over the past year. That boils down to somewhere around 600,000 fewer cows.

The growing problem is actually making its way to your dinner table, too. At the supermarkets, the price of beef continues to go up.

"The demand for beef is actually going up. Both American consumers and consumers globally are demanding high quality American beef. As a result, we're having increasing demand and now a decrease in supply," Sawyer said.

Wight says if it doesn't rain next year, he'll get rid of the rest of this cattle, but he won't get too down about it. Sometimes, you've just got to play the hand that mother nature deals you.

"It makes you sad but you can't dwell on things you don't have any control over. You just have to attack the things that you can control and try not to worry about the rest of it," Wight said.