Stock trailers line up at most any livestock sale barn in the state of Texas. Sometimes cattlemen want to sell their cattle. Sometimes they have to. Livestock hauler Barry Hughes said, "A lot of them are selling early because it is so dry. Running out of grass, not enough hay."
It's a job routinely conducted in the cool of the fall when herds are normally reduced. This year record high temperatures stress out cattle and owners. "No matter how you look at it I don't think it's been this bad for 4 or 5 years," said dairy farmer Steve Melasky. He selected baby calves and their mothers for auction. "Some of them are your good cows. You just do what you have to do."
Fortunately the return is higher than expected. Hughes explained, "The market is good so it's not just a terrible deal. As dry as it is you would think the market would be worse than it is, but it's still good." As a result auction barns are overwhelmed with business. Some are having to turn customers away because of running out of pen space. Video auctions conducted on agriculture satellite stations and the Internet is an alternative.
How they're sold makes little difference to the consumer. County agent Crispin Skinner said, "Labor Day coming up those meat packers are going to have to refurbish. They're going to have to fill all the warehouses back up so there may be some specials out there, but then again the price still may go up just slightly."