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January 28, 2006
Drought affects cattle market

Despite the current drought, the cattle market's booming.

"Surprisingly, they're great for the conditions. You couldn't ask to get more for calves than they're bringing," rancher Reginald Rieger said.

Auction prices are holding steady, ranchers say.

"Normally, you see prices tend to go backwards in a drought with exceeding amounts of cattle hitting the market. We're going into a year this year that's unique because we have seen a lot of cattle that sold early of the year, lightweight cattle, because the cattle were high and farmers and ranchers could take what they got for them," auctioneer Ronnie Beck said.

What is killing Central Texas ranchers is feeding their herd. "The hay has gotten so high that everybody needs it, they want it. A lot of people can't even get hay," Beck said. It's an issue of supply and demand.

"You run short of feed, hay and having to buy more supplements. And considering it all they're still looking pretty well, but it's taking them a lot to keep them that way," Rieger said.

Rieger hasn't sold any cattle yet, but will be deciding soon.

"If it doesn't change in the next 30 days … Well, then it should be spring time again and if it does start to rain grass will come quick," Rieger said.

In the next 30 days, farmers should begin planting corn and milo. "Folks are really on edge right now, because we don't have any reserve moisture that's down deep to sustain a corn crop at this point," Stiles Farm Manager Archie Abrameit said.

Now is the time when farmers typically lay their fertilizer, which is already costly because of high fuel costs. Farmers must decide if they'll risk the cost without the possibility of a crop.

A 150-acres field takes $5,000 worth of seed and $10,000 worth of fertilizer, but if there is no rain, which is free from the sky, the field won't be profitable.

Everyone is looking to the skies.

"If it happens to rain this weekend, like we're promised it will, it will have a bigger effect on people holding on to their cattle so to speak, and selling them at a later time when they weigh more. They're kind of forced to sell them now, because they don't have anything for them to eat," Beck said. Top of Form 1 Bottom of Form 1 Top of Form 1 Bottom of Form 1

Source : News 8 Austin