Drought conditions blamed for cattle sell-off

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Broadview rancher Pat Woods in one of his pastures north of Clovis. He said he’s already sold half of his cattle and may have to sell the rest if rain doesn’t come because the cattle won’t have anything to eat.

Alisa Boswell

Livestock owners have been selling their cattle at an alarming rate recently, according to local cattle brokers and ranchers. They cite the lack of feed because of drought conditions for the sell-off.

According to Clovis Livestock Auction sales representative Rustin Rowley, in just the last two months, weekly livestock sales have almost tripled, increasing on average from about 1,500 head to 4,200 head.

“This time of year, ranchers don’t normally have to spend much money to feed cattle cause they’re eating grass but there’s no grass right now so they’re selling them,” Rowley said. “Some of them are quitting and some keep feeding them. It’s just a management decision on what they do.”

Rowley said because there is no grass, ranchers are having to spend more on feed they cannot afford, causing them to sell their cattle.

He said most local ranchers have sold at least some of their cattle, but some have had to sell all.

“We may be selling all these big numbers this year but then we could be way down next year because everyone sold their cattle,” Rowley said. “So we could be recovering from this for the next two years. If it doesn’t rain in the next 30 days, they’re not going to be able to grow grass for next year anyway. These next 30 days are critical, I think.”

Local cattle ranchers agreed the next 30 days are important.

“I’ve got a window here of about 30 days to get enough moisture to plant wheat, so I’ll have a chance to make a wheat pasture and make profit off of it to be able to buy cattle and get back ahead,” said Pat Woods, a cattle rancher in the Curry, Quay and Santa Fe counties. “If I can’t do that, the only option is to get rid of the rest of the cattle ‘cause they will literally have nothing left to eat.”

Woods said he has had to sell half of his cattle this year, taking his head count from 1,600 to 800. He said he has made less profit from his livestock than he normally would because they are about 120 pounds lighter per head than normal.

“The drought has really affected everybody,” said Roosevelt County part-time cattle rancher Chek Rippee. “We’ve had to cull (sell) some cows just to be able to get through it. If we don’t get any rain before winter, then ranchers will have to sell more.”

Rippee said he sold 60 head this year compared to the 10 he normally sells in one year.

“It’s a different time and the drought really affects us too,” Rippee said. “I have a job in town to be able to compensate for what I love to do, which is ranching.”