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Too Little Too Late

The sky to the northeast is lighting up and I can hear the thunderstorm grumbling up there by the Red. I can smell the rain on the wind out of the north.   We won’t see any of it here.

I wrote the other day about the wildfires and the drought down in the Hill Country and out in that West Texas.  We are burnt up here too.  No rain to speak of all summer and the record breaking heat has just dried this country plumb up. The Ranch Manager stopped in Tuesday morning to let me know they were rounding up the cattle and all the neighbors would be coming in to help with their cow ponies and stock trailers– I figured they were just going to cull the herd for the winter as is normal procedure.  A little early but I knew they had been out of pasture since June and hay prices are as high as a cat’s back.  They made no hay crop here at all this summer.

A load of mama cows out the gate

What I figured was all wrong. Craig said they were done.  The whole herd was going to the sale barn.  Craig ain’t one to talk much;  less prone to show any emotion. I could tell this conversation hurt.  The market is flooded with cattle right now and prices are rock bottom. He figures the market is going to get lower still yet.  Every day they delay the inevitable; the cows get cheaper and the hay gets more expensive.  So best to sell and get it done with.  What’s a man to do anyway?

City folks just can’t grasp what this means.   When you sell your mama cows and bulls, years of selective breeding are gone.  Every fall, the ranchers pick their best stock to winter over.  In the spring, the best calves are born from the best mama cows you have and each year you do that, the herd improves.  It takes years to build up a good herd.   These mama cows will sell for little or nothing.  The buyers will not be buying them for breeding stock.   Maybe in years past but not this year.  They will sell as cutters and canners — bottom dollar.  Hamburger and dog food cows.   Years of work done and gone in those trailers today.

At the sale barn

Next spring there won’t be any new calves here and next fall and spring, there won’t be any fat steers to send to the slaughterhouse.   Those fat 2 year old steers are the t-bones and porterhouses on your grill city people.   But they ain’t gonna be available because all the mama cows were ground up at the meat packing plant in the Fall of 2011.   The round up at this ranch is being repeated all over Texas times ten thousand or times a million; I don’t know.  Texas is the largest producer of beef in the country… or it was.   In two years, you are going to have to be a Rockefeller to buy a steak and I guess the Ranchers will try to hold on to what little they got left until it rains.

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