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How Drought Affects You

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By M.P. Cremer

The “d” word may refer to many different taboo words across school yards in the U.S., but in ranching and farming, the “d” word makes agriculturists shudder more than any curse word could – “drought.”

Last year, we experienced a lengthy drought in Big Timber, Mont. and this year, my family back home in Rosalie, Texas, is experiencing a drought. Agriculturists experiencing drought is not uncommon, it happens from time to time in different spots around the globe. It’s talked about frequently and recorded for the history books. 

However, what’s not often discussed is how drought affects more than just those who rely on agriculture to pay their bills. The agriculturists reading this right now probably know everything I’m about to share, but I encourage them to share it with the people in their life who may not be educated on this issue.

In simple terms, a drought is when there’s an extended period of water shortages and land dries up. You’ve probably heard of drought in your grade school science classes or scoffed at it when you saw there was a burn ban in place in your hometown, but drought impacts way more than missing out on a bonfire or two.

Drought affects every single sector of the ag industry, which in turn affects the number of crops and livestock produced and sold. This affects prices and stock at every level of the food supply chain; which leads to consumers seeing a major fluctuation and price change on some of their favorite food items at the grocery store.

For example, I saw  lengthy Fakebook posts showing a long line of trucks and trailers outside a livestock market in Texas. The trailers were full of cattle, waiting to be sold because ranchers don’t have the water to produce enough grass to graze or can’t get their hands on enough grain to feed their cows. No water equals no grain to harvest; minimal grain equals a price increase. 

Cattlemen selling their cows will get more money, so it must be a good thing. Right? WRONG. 

If cattlemen sell more of their herd than they usually do each year to accommodate for feed shortages, they’ll have less cattle to sell next year and the year after. Furthermore, they’ll have less cows producing heifers and steers which would be sold in the next few years. By selling off 50 or so extra cows in 2022, they’ll see the long-term effects of this income loss in the years to come. 

Most of the cattle sold at the sale barn will likely go to feedlots which will also have issues finding enough grain to feed said cows. With minimal grain to feed the influx of cattle, this will mean the cattle leaving these feedlots won’t be as fat as they should be.  

Eventually, feedlots will sell their cattle to large packing houses who will then sell to retailers and restaurants for a higher-than-normal price. By the time a pound of burger gets to the consumer, the price they would usually pay for ground beef is a thing of the past.

This is just one example. It’s the same way across the entire agriculture industry right now. From lima beans to lamb chops, the ag industry is hurting and ultimately, this will hurt you.

The solution? Rain, and that’s something only the Big Man upstairs can fix.

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