Local News

Cattle Coming to Market Sooner Due to Drought

Posted August 24, 2007 2:33 p.m. EDT
Updated August 24, 2007 7:06 p.m. EDT

— Carolina Stockyards in Siler City has seen double the number of cattle coming to market because of the drought.

On Mondays, farmers said they usually sell 500 head of cattle, but in recent weeks, it has been more than 1,000.

On Fridays, 1,000 head of cattle are usually sold, but because of the drought, they're selling between 1,800 and 2,000.

“They're getting rid of what they can as soon as they can,” Sam Gross, a Chatham County agriculture extension agent, said Friday.

There are more than 850,000 head of cattle in the state. Chatham County has the third-highest production rate, making it one of the hardest hit.

Farmers said they have no hay because the heat is damaging the crops. Plus, water sources are drying up, so the farmers cannot keep their animals properly hydrated.

“I've sold off all the old cows. Now I’m starting on the younger calves,” said farmer David Owen. “It's the same story everyone else will tell you.”

Farmers are selling cattle at an earlier age and lighter weight. Some estimate they're losing $100 a head.

“A lot of light cattle (are) coming in, cattle marketed probably 150 to 200 pounds earlier than normal,” said Carolina Stockyards owner Robert Crabb Jr.

Officials said most of the cattle buyers are coming from states such as Texas, Kansas and Nebraska, where farmers are having a much better year.

“I don't know what I'm going to do about it. I can't give them away. Got to get what I can for them,” said farmer Fred Trogden.

Livestock producers said they worry they'll pay the price for this drought for months to come. For now, most farmers are just hoping for rain. They said there's not much else they can do.

“You'll probably see herd numbers for North Carolina drop, but eventually they'll build back up and start growing again,” Gross said.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was looking into trucking in hay from out of state. However, farmers said that's an expensive option and they would still lose money.