Cattle farming losses likely from excessive heat, drought in Louisiana

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 10:21 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Extreme heat and drought this summer have led to losses in several of Louisiana’s agricultural sectors. The LSU Agcenter says the worst losses are expected in the beef cattle sector forced downsizing of cattle herds and other factors could lead to estimated losses of $135 million to $290 million.

The entire agricultural industry is experiencing impacts from excessive heat and drought, but beef cattle, are getting hit on several fronts.

Donna and Sam Fontenot are fifth-generation cattle farmers.

“Looking at the ground, looking at this grass, what does this cow have to eat, they’re not going to eat this,” Cattle Farmer Sam Fontenot said. “They’re going to eat that right there, right in here, the rest of this is dead, there’s nothing here.”

“So what you’re seeing is very, very short Bermuda grass here with a lot of goat weeds and bitter weeds coming in here, but nothing that the cattle can really grow on,” Cattle Farmer Donna Fontenot said.

With very little rain, pastures are drying up.

“We’ve always seen conditions in farming good and bad, we’ve been through it all; we’ve been through good times, bad times, but this is probably the worst drought we’ve ever seen in this area,” said Donna Fontenot.

Forced liquidation and early weaning are management strategies that producers have to do to manage the amount of forage they have because the grass is not growing.

“A lot of producers are going to end up liquidating instead of trying to keep their pastures full,” Donna said. “That’s going to have a direct impact eventually on the consumers, they’re going to see it in the grocery stores.”

Bradley Laningham has been buying beef from the Fontenot’s for a couple of years.

“We’ve delivered some beef to Bradley today, some a beef bundle; it’s got a brisket in it. it’s got some rib eyes, it’s got some really nice chuck roast, ground beef, and some t-bones,” Donna said.

“I mean the drought is affecting a lot of people right now. It doesn’t matter if it’s farmers or any other body that deals with commercial meat or produce or like the fisheries as well.” Laningham said.

“You know the drought is not just Southwest Louisiana. It goes into west Texas and it goes all the way to parts of Georgia and Northern Louisiana, you know, it’s a big, big area that’s been affected by this drought,” Donna said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, many producers have been forced to sell between 10% and 30% of their permanent herds, leading to future losses as ranchers will have fewer calves reared in coming years.