What We Can Learn From the Drought

07 Aug


Drought reminds us of the real risk involved in cattle production.

Brown leaves scattered on the road, the crackle of dead grass beneath my boots.  The bleached color of the corn catch my eye and the rustling of the dry stalks in the wind add to the noise to the tired landscape. An earthy smell is on the wind in the early morning.  If it wasn’t for my calendar my senses would tell me that it was autumn with winter on our heels.   The sad reality is that we’ve just entered August.   The barren fall like landscape is a harsh reminder for many of us that the drought is real and will have real ramifications for farmers and ranchers alike for the rest of this year and as we head into the next.

Lack of rain and excessive heat have depleted pastures and robbed many of adequate hay production.   Watering holes and ponds levels continue to drop from use and evaporation.  People are feeding hay, culling cows, and selling lighter weight calves.  Prices continue to drop as supply increases and demand remains steady.  Worried eyes watch the rising grain prices and anxiously pencil down what feed costs might be this winter. Many will have to make some hard decisions in the coming months.   I like many young producers are disheartened by what is taking place.

I do not claim to be an expert in cattle production or a well versed student in economics.  I do have a college degree and posses just enough working knowledge to be dangerous. I feel that there is an opportunity for those who have the resources to keep their cattle. We recently took a risk and bought a couple of heifers taking advantage of a lower market and having high hopes for the future calf prices.  Our situation is fortunate as we have access to pastures and forage for winter.  We hope the investment pans out, of course we are also hoping for a wet winter to revive the pastures; otherwise this will be a short venture indeed. 

Now I do not remember the 1980’s and the droughts or farm crisis. I was just a kid. I’ve heard a lot of comparison of today’s conditions to those worrisome years.   Since that time and more recently farming had been a good investment for several sectors.  Cattle producers had some great years.  Everyone was ready to jump in and take advantage of the good markets – now is the time when we learn if we have the stomach for being a cattle producer.  This drought reminds us of the real risk involved in production agriculture.  Agriculture has become so sophisticated and hi-tech that we sometimes forget that our way of life is still really governed by the seasons and natural world.  

As young producers we need to take advantage of what these times have to offer.  Learn from this experience.  For many of us it might be our first time facing such a huge crisis.  Farmers and ranchers are resillent people and we hold the same beliefs – we are always looking forward to next year, next year will be better. 

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One response to “What We Can Learn From the Drought

  1. Buttons

    August 7, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Fantastic article I think you know what you are talking about. I was beef farming in the 80’s and I remember double digit interest rates and low cattle prices it was not fun but we made it. I as a Canadian remember the BSE crisis and another hit to beef farmers we lost lots of income but we kept going. I remember all the bad times but I also remember all the good years too.
    I think as I age I do hope young people will take a chance on Beef farming it has more rewards than you will ever know, you just have to learn to roll with the punches as they say.
    I think this drought and worry may be the one crisis that may make me want to quit but I hope not. It is something I cannot control but we will see what comes of it just like every other time. Hope and perseverance is all we have. We will be scaling down and hopefully holding on to as many springers as we can feed. We are unfortunately feeding now so we shall see.
    I think it is a great opportunity for young farmers to get into the business. The average age of Beef farmers in my area is 55 not a good thing, we are slowing down. Good luck to all who jump in. B


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