Drought forces Utah ranchers to sell off herds, drives beef prices up

Jul 7, 2021, 6:16 AM
beef prices to go up because of drought...
FILE: beefitswhatsfordinner.com via the Utah Cattlemen's Association

SALT LAKE CITY — When you visit a grocery store in the future, you might see higher beef prices as a result of the drought and its impact on cattle ranchers.

Drought forcing ranchers to sell cattle

Industry analysts say a lot of ranchers are being forced to get rid of more cattle than they want to because they’re unable to feed them during the drought.

Analysts say it isn’t just the high price of hay that’s plaguing Utah’s cattle farmers.  Utah Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Brent Tanner says the arid conditions all over the state have essentially wiped out any grazing land ranchers could use.  Normally, ranchers from Utah could move their herds to neighboring states to graze, however, Tanner says that’s not a viable option this year.

“Right now, all of our neighboring states are in the same shape that we are,” he said.

This is forcing many ranchers to sell-off a lot of their cattle.  Tanner believes this could cause a significant supply problem in the next few years if cattlemen have to unload a lot of mother cows.  He calls them the “factories” that keep the beef industry going.

“The ‘factory’ is not there to start production for the beef product that would be consumed two or three years down the road,” according to Tanner.

How the drought affects beef prices

If ranchers have to sell their cattle en masse, wouldn’t that bring the prices down?  Tanner says, technically, it could in the near future.  However, the rising costs of transporting cattle and the increased demand for beef is keeping the prices high.

“Consumers are coming out of the pandemic.  The food service and restaurants are starting to pick up and go strong,” Tanner said.  “Our beef demand is very, very good right now.”

Tanner says many people ask him if they should stock up on beef before there’s any potential shortage.  He says it’s only a good idea if people buy what they know how to cook.

“A lot of people will go out and buy [a side of] beef and not know what exactly to do with it.  So, buy the cuts of beef you’re familiar with,” Tanner said.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has a list of local producers on its Utah’s Own website.

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Drought forces Utah ranchers to sell off herds, drives beef prices up