Ind. (AP) — Indiana's worst drought in decades is forcing some cattle
farmers to sell off cows they can no longer afford to feed as pastures dry
up and feed prices soar.
Indiana cattle farmer Alan Armstrong sold off 120 beef cows last Saturday
at the Springville Feeder Auction Association, a farmer-owned cooperative
near Bedford. The auction house has been in business since the 1950s and
while sales are held throughout the year, having one in August is rare.
The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/MTP4Ms
) for a story published Thursday that his decision to sell was one of
simple economics — he had too many animals and not enough to feed them.
He said he's
already feeding hay to his cows, something he usually does not start doing
until November. But this year there's no grass in his pastures, and the
cost of buying feed is twice what it usually is this time of year.
"When it gets
like this, you've got to eliminate mouths to feed. We're in survival mode
now," Armstrong said.
is 62, started in the cattle business when he was 7 years old and his dad
paid him 25 cents a week to feed the family's herd. He said he hasn't seen
a year like this year's drought.
Jack Ryan of
Ryan Brothers Livestock in northern Monroe County said his farm has sold
about half of its cattle starting two weeks ago "when it started to get
real bad." He said creeks have dried up, ponds have gone stagnant and the
corn byproducts fed to livestock are double their normal price.
"We had them
out to pasture, but it's down to nothing," he said.
Jerry Rusch, a
Mitchell veterinarian and beef cattle specialist who heads up
Springville's Feeder Auction Association, oversaw Saturday's sale of adult
cows. He said the sale was the first held in late summer since 1988,
another drought year.
that during a normal year, the cows sold last weekend would have grazed in
the field until November before being sold for slaughter. He's been busy
in recent weeks doing pregnancy checks on cows on area farms to determine
which ones farmers should keep.
"The ones that
are not going to produce, you can ship to market," Rusch said. "This is a
time when many farmers are shrinking the size of their herds, cutting back
He said beef
prices may go down with the increased supply, as farmers cut their herds
to meet the amount of hay available. But Rusch said consumers should
expect higher prices for beef as the year progresses.