Small Rancher Sells Cows Because Of Drought

The drought situation in East Texas is causing a number of concerns for some ranchers. With dry pastures and low hay production, prices are twice as high. And, with temperatures in the triple digits, there's not much relief in sight.

A small rancher in Grand Saline says with harsh conditions, he can no longer afford to stay in business.   "When I seen the pasture dry up and I found out how much hay was going to cost, that's when I decided to sell out, be done with them," said Chris Bell, 65, now a former rancher.

Bell sold the last cow from his herd of 22 on Saturday at the Emory Livestock Auction. "$1.12 per pound is the best price I got for a calf and older cows are lucky to bring 40, 45 cents per pound," said Bell.  He said he was afraid if he waited any longer, he would have gotten much less.

Bell says he bought five cows back in 1981 and saw 199 calves born here. Bell and his wife have lived here for more than 30 years, and they say seeing their land empty is heart-breaking.

"That's the first time in years we haven't had a cow in the place," said Bell. According to a state agency, during a normal year, a roll of hay would cost between $25 and $35 per roll. Now, it's anywhere between $65 and $75 per roll.

Smith County Fire Marshall Jim Seaton says when farmers and ranchers are affected, so is everyone else. "Any time they have a loss here locally of agricultural revenue, the stores have to bring in products from out of state, down the valley, which raises consumer products," said Seaton.

Cattle experts say prices have stayed strong due to high demand. But in the past couple of weeks, there has been a small slip.

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.