California drought: Ranchers selling off cattle

California drought: Ranchers selling off cattle

[Ed. – Even the cattle are heading for Texas.]

Romaldo Martin, a cattle rancher who runs M&M Farms in Hollister, has sold more than 160 cows and calves at 101 Livestock Market over the past two weeks and plans to sell at least 100 more. He said it’s too expensive to buy hay to feed his herd, and the water on his land is drying up.

“If the weather doesn’t change, I might need to get rid of all of them,” said Martin, who is in his 70s and used to run about 600 heads of cattle. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life … It’s a disaster.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 16 declared a drought disaster in some California counties, which allows farmers to apply for low-interest loans to help them cope. Ranchers are not included in the program. …

Some of California’s herd will be headed to Texas, which is recovering from its own severe drought. That state’s herd of five million head of cattle has shrunk over the past few years by a quarter, said Jason Cleere, a rancher and beef cattle specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension at Texas A&M University.

But as the drought has eased in most of Texas, the herd is being rebuilt, creating a market for California’s ranchers looking to sell. “There’s a lot of room for more cows to come into our state, and for ranchers to add some back,” Cleere said.

While in the short term selling cattle can help ranchers cope, it can push more of them out of business in the long run, ranchers said.

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