Drought impacts cattle herds, possible increase in beef prices - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Drought impacts cattle herds, possible increase in beef prices

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

The nation's cattle herd count has shrunk to its smallest size since the 1950s. That's according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

It's due to the drought that's impacted most of the country the past couple of years. 

Since the cattle count is down, that could mean higher beef prices for consumers.

The drought had a minimal impact on McNeese Farms in Southwest Louisiana, but farmers still had to make some changes.

Many cattle producers across the country had to move or sell their cattle elsewhere because the upkeep was beginning to cause a financial strain on the farmer.

"The last two years which is just unbelievable ... the last two years in June we were feeding hay, which is hard to believe, but we were dealt the same hand that everyone else was as far as Mother Nature goes," McNeese Farms Manager Darrin Goodwin said.

Even though the farm wasn't hit as hard as other farms across the country, Goodwin said the drought affected the way they fed the cattle.

While other farms had to reduce cattle her sizes, Goodwin said they were lucky they could keep a consistent herd number.

"Our neighbors to the north of us -- Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas -- still in a real bad drought area. It's taken a toll on the cattle numbers in the United States," Goodwin said. 

A tough situation for the cattle industry especially as the springtime nears.

Nutrition is a big part in cattle production and other places affected by the drought are having trouble feeding the cattle in order to produce calves. But at McNeese Farms, the ground is wet, the grass is green and the calves are on their way.

But keeping up with nutrition has been hard because of the drought. Having to feed cattle hay from the hay reserves and the cost for feed is pricey.

"When the calves are hitting the ground, they've got extreme value on them. However, prices of corn's up seven to eight dollars for corn. We have cattle in the feed yard right now. They should be ready to harvest come April," Goodwin said. "However, the price of corn being where it is, it's just a very unusual situation we're in."

While they are having to pay more to get cattle ready for harvest, McNeese Farms didn't have it as bad as other farms, but it's still something they have to deal with.

"We, on the other hand, being blessed with some good weather, and good rye grass as you can see here behind me, we're continuing to improve our genetics and continue to build our herd numbers up as we speak to try to benefit from all of our hard work that we're putting into it and hopefully with the market where it's at and the spring and the lower numbers across the United States ... we hopefully will benefit from the higher market at the selling time," Goodwin said.

Even though the higher prices for beef may not be good for the consumers' wallets, those costs will help make up for the price farmers had to pay to feed cattle during the dry months and if they had to sell off any cattle.

Check out the raw interview with Darrin Goodwin for more on the cattle and beef issue impacted by the drought.

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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