Ranchers in the Texas Panhandle cattle country say they're dealing with depressed beef prices caused by the end of a prolonged drought.
Smith Cattle Co. General Manager Levi Berry told the Amarillo Globe-News his feedlot cows were bringing $170 per 100 pounds two years ago, but those prices now have plunged to about $103. That's a loss that could approach $1,000 per animal, he said.
"We've never seen it this bad," Berry said. "It's the biggest price move in the history of our business, and it happened in a fairly short time frame. That's the thing that's been painful."
The drought from 2011 to 2014 in the Panhandle, the hub of the Texas cattle industry, left a shortage of quality corn, pushing up feed prices and then cattle prices. Amarillo National Bank Executive Vice President Pat Ware said.
With the drought gone, there's now more cattle on the market, driving prices down.
The Texas Cattle Feeders Association says ranchers have 600,000 more cattle and calves than two years ago.
"More rain means it's cheaper to feed cattle on the ranch," Ware said.
Trevor Caviness, the president of Hereford-based Caviness Beef Packers, says consumers may notice retail prices have started to drop but it's common for retail prices to lag in the beef industry.
"It always goes up faster than it comes down," he said.