Persistent Calif. drought to delay U.S. cattle herd rebuilding

Author: Kristy

By Theopolis Waters

CHICAGO, March 4 (Reuters) – California’s recent rains brought only short-term relief to the state which is suffering its worst drought in a century, leaving cattle rancher Kevin Kester to stick to his strategy of salvaging as much of his operation as possible for his three children to have a future in the cattle business.

“We have a plan to hang on for another 60 days. If we don’t have any significant rainfall by the end of April then we’ll be forced to sell off everything we have,” said Kester, the 58-year-old owner of Bear Valley Ranch in Parkfield, California.

Last year Kester held off buying new steers and sold off 20 percent of his 700 beef cows on the 20,000-acre spread that has been in the family for five generations.

A plodding, steady rain is needed to heal California grazing pastures scarred by historic drought, draining the state’s pool of beef cattle that ranchers elsewhere need to help restore the U.S. herd, which is now at the smallest since 1951 at 87.730 million head, livestockindustry sources said.

They said fewer cattle from the Golden State will result in more feedlots and packing plants going out of business in the roughly 2-1/2 years it takes for a young calf to reach market weight.

While scarce supplies will help ranchers reap a windfall from record-high cattle prices during that period, shoppers face even higher beef costs.  READ MORE

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