Heat takes toll on cattle ranchers, beef prices could rise

TULSA - The hot weather is having an affect on all Oklahomans, but it is having an even bigger impact on area cattle ranchers.

Last year's drought sent feed prices soaring, making it harder for ranches to feed their livestock.

As a result, many sold off more cattle than they would have liked.

"We were nearing 30 percent of cows that would be typically maintained on ranches through Texas and Oklahoma, had to be solved because people just did not have the feed resources or the money to buy keep them in production," said agriculture educator Bruce Peverly, with the Tulsa County OSU Extension office.

This year, feed prices are up again, as a result of the heat.

"For years a thousand pound round bale of hay sold for $20," said Peverly. "Right now that's selling for $50. Last winter, we were selling round bales for $100 or more. If this hot heat and dry weather continues, then I expect hay prices to increase and we'll start trending to that $100 bale, which makes it very expensive to produce cattle."

Peverly said it could mean higher food prices for consumers at the grocery store.

"We can see the price of beef going up," said Peverly.

Montie Soules is the manager of Star Lake Cattle Ranch in Skiatook.

Star Lake is a breeding ranch and doesn't sell its cattle directly for meat consumption.

Even so, they are impacted by the hot weather like most cattle ranches.

Last year, they had to cut their cow numbers back a little and may have to do the same this year.

"We're probably going to sell a few more this fall than we would like to just because we can see what's coming at us," said Soules.

But Soules said he and his staff are dedicated to taking care of the cattle and he is confident things will improve for all ranchers in Oklahoma.

"More rain would always help," said Soules. "You have to just manage. If you manage smartly you can get through and it's just a matter of getting around the curb and waiting hopefully for some rain the next day."

Drought conditions in Oklahoma are significantly less severe than conditions in Arkansas and Missouri, where many cattle ranches could go out of business if there is no precipitation soon.

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