Local farmers not selling off cattle, yet
While the extreme drought has caused farmers and ranchers to decrease the number of livestock they have in their herds in the western United States, locally there isn't a problem.
"We aren't seeing anyone sell off their cattle," said Tom Frey with Creston Livestock Auction. "We are fortunate because the farmers here have other means of feed for their cattle."
Joe Sellers, livestock field specialist with Iowa State University Extension in Union County, said he has seen farmers in eastern Iowa selling off their cattle.
"I would say from south of Des Moines and east," he said. "Union County has been dry, but over in eastern Iowa, it has been even more dry."
In Texas, Wisconsin and Arkansas, farmers and ranchers have been selling off their herds because they are unable to feed them. As of July 1, the total number of cattle and calves was 97.8 million head, 2 percent below the 100 million of July 1, 2011.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture 2007 Ag Census, more than 50 percent of the total value of U.S. sales of cattle and calves comes from the top five states of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado, respectively. As of Jan. 1, there were 3.9 million head of cattle in Iowa.
"I think there is a chance of some farmers selling off their cattle later on this year," said Sellers. "It depends on how dry it stays, and how much water is needed. It will just be case by case. Then, the question will be, how many heifers will the farmers keep to build back up their herd?"
Some alternatives Seller said he has seen Iowa farmers using to feed their herds include corn stalk bales, conservation reserve program (CRP) hay and corn silage.
"There are some people who haven't put up silage in years, but they are using it now as an alternative feed," said Sellers. "But, not everyone can use silage. And, there are some places where pastures have already ran out."
Sellers added, farmers are weaning calves early. By pulling the calf off early it will reduce the amount of feed the cow needs. The cow's nutritional requirements will decrease, which will help to conserve body condition.
Even though things are looking OK locally currently, Sellers says there may still be a chance that southern Iowa farmers will sell off their cattle early.
"Farmers have a lot of decisions to make in the future," he said. "And, I don't think we are to the point yet where we know what some of these farmers are going to do."