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Drought forces Ozarks farmers to sell livestock much earlier than usual

Farmer on lack of rain: 'I've had approximately two inches on my farm since February.'

July 09, 2012|by Paula Morehouse and Justin Haase, KY3 News |

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- Hour after hour, cattle were herded into a pen to be auctioned off for a special cow, calf, and bull sale on Monday at the Ozark Regional Stockyard.

"There's a lot of people here having to sell cattle they never would under any other circumstances," said Mickey Walker,

The combination of soaring temperatures, a lack of rain, and a scarce food supply has left many farmers with few options.

"I've not got a choice. No hay handy, what there is has not got any food value. So, the best thing to do is to sell out and downsize to where I can build back," said farmer Ray Alvis.

Over two days, Alvis will sell more than 70 of his animals, and he's doing it months earlier then when he would typically.
Alvis said, in his more than 70 years of farming in Howell County, he has never seen it this dry.

"I've had approximately two inches on my farm since February."

He has already been feeding hay to his livestock for about six weeks, which is something he usually doesn't start until December or January.

The demand and the scarcity of hay have pushed the price up by two or three times more than last year's cost.  At the same time, farmers are looking to other states that have seen more rainfall for their feed supply.

Stockyard managers expected between 2,800 and 3,000 head would sell by the end of Monday. Some of the cattle will go to regions where conditions are faring better than Missouri.

"We've had, in the last few weeks, buyers from out of state -- Oklahoma, Texas -- that are coming to cash in on the cattle we can't feed," said Walker.

Walker added that a lot of buyers from Texas had actually sold some of their livestock in Missouri last year.


"I'm sure there was a lot of Texas cattle that came up here whenever they were in a drought. So, the shoe is on the other foot now."

For others who were buying cattle, this was an opening to better their stock.

"You don't have a lot of opportunity to buy young cows around right now," said Chris Byerly.

Byerly bought about 170 head; he'll move them to Jasper County, Mo., and Delaware County, Okla.  He said those regions are not quite as dry, but he said that could change.

"It's a gamble."

If Mother Nature doesn't produce a measurable amount of rain soon, the stockyard will be holding more special sales throughout the summer.

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