Cattle herds continue to decline in Kansas

Cattle (KSN File Photo)

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GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Ranchers in the western part of the state are feeling the brunt of the drought as their herds are starting to thin out due to the dry spell.

Beau Larson runs a 600 head Angus ranch near Sharon Springs and like many ranchers he is hoping for some relief from the drought.

“We keep thinking that it’s eventually got to start raining one of these days, and so we’ve held on for as long as we can, but our feed supply is running on the low side.”

The drought has become so severe here in western Kansas that cattle levels are the lowest they have been in 14 years. And that has producers making some tough decisions on what animals they consider.

“When they have to sell them before they’re ready to, it hurts. And it means that next year, they won’t have the same amount of dollars in their pocket because they won’t have the cattle to sell,” says Terry Devaughan, Syracuse Auction Commission.

Devaughan says they’re seeing an increase in cattle for sale at their weekly auctions which ultimately hits the bottom lines of consumers.

“It’s like any commodity. If you have a shortage of it, the price is going to go up. It’s put into the food chain, and the producers take their cut out of it, and by the time it gets to you, the American consumer, well it can get pretty pricey to you, and almost make you want to buy something else.”

The dry weather has delayed and reduced the amount of pasture available to feed Larson’s full-sized cattle and it’s also driving up the price of corn and substitute feeds.

Larson says all they can do is either ride out the higher prices or sell some of their herd early.

“The hardest is just being able to hold on, and it gets rather expensive trying to feed your way out of a drought,” said Larson.

According to the latest drought monitor numbers, the state is still suffering some level of drought.

Seventeen percent of the state is at the exceptional or highest level of drought and all of that is in western Kansas.

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