Choice wholesale beef prices hit a record high for the first week in May. But one reason is that cattle raisers continue to pay the skyrocketing cost of production through the drought. Rodie Goodwin makes his living as a cattle buyer in Abilene and said that he won't be putting together many summer sets of cattle if we don't see any rain.
"We have an order buying company in Abilene and we make sales from Graham to Fredericksburg. There's about four or five of us that buy cattle," Goodwin said. "It's gotten pretty slow. Right now the numbers are down awful. It's getting pretty hard to put a load of cattle together. It's just getting slower and slower and slower as the days go."
The set of 60 stocker cattle that Goodwin is loading on the truck he put together for a Lubbock County producer back in November. Buying mostly Angus cattle helped ensure they would bring close to top dollar on the selling end. And the producer took a risk by forward contracting the set.
"We bought a load of steers for him back in November. We try to buy the front end cattle, the Angus, that way we can kind of go anywhere with them," Goodwin said. "Those cattle will do real good, they have the bone and everything to them. Those cattle will feed real well."
And these cattle did feed well, growing from around 435 pounds a piece to about 860 pounds a head in just over 150 days. But the management level and inputs were higher than they've been in wetter years.
"They went to the feed yard, they went to Kansas and they'll finish them out up there," Goodwin said.
Goodwin said that eventually Texas will get some rain and cattle numbers will start to climb. But until then, the immediate future is uncertain for the cattle industry and it's affecting more than just the price you pay at the grocery store.
"It hasn't been like this in a long time," Goodwin said. "And I don't think any of us know what do to or what's in the future. If it did go to raining right now, we wouldn't have enough cows. The factories are going out. We've got to have the cows to produce the calves."
The good news is some of the other major cattle producing regions in the country are getting moisture like Oklahoma and the Midwest. And hopefully West Texas will see some relief sooner than later.