Ranchers say they’re worried about their livelihood as the drought and coronavirus continue in Oklahoma.
Rancher and Osage Cattleman’s Association President Taylor Reed lives in the northern part of Osage County, where there has only been a little over an inch of rain since June 1; that’s 75% lower than the average for this time of year. He says that due to the lack of rain, hay and grass field production are hardly half of what they usually are.
The lack of rain combined with coronavirus impacts on the beef market is impacting sales and quality of cattle, making every aspect of cattle ranching difficult.
“Out here, we are grass country, this is what they have to survive and gain on, this is what’s important,” Reed says. “It makes or breaks us, it’s the lifeblood of the ranch if we don’t have grass, we don’t have an operation.”
Ranching has been in Reed’s family since 1901 and he says their livelihood is based on weather, which is always a gamble. He says his grandfather used to say “it will rain thirty minutes before it’s too late”, which he says is a risky way to live but they don’t have a choice.
He says the average Osage County cow can drink up to 30 gallons of water a day. He has about 100 cows per pasture. Reed did the math for his ranch and he needs roughly 3,000 gallons of water a day for just one pasture of his cows. He says his clean water resources are depleting by the week even though he has multiple ponds.
“The stagnant water, the stale water, sits in the heat and bacteria grows easily in it and also the insects infiltrate it quite a bit,” Reed says.
Along with the drought came the coronavirus as well; he says the virus lowered the selling points of cattle and raised the price of beef, really hurting ranchers across Oklahoma.
“Ranching is a risky operation. When you deal with weather, you deal with a lot of risks, and now other things took an impact on the cattle markets, for instance, the coronavirus,” Reed says.
He says 2020 has been a hard year for the cattle business but he’s keeping faith that things will take a turn for the better soon.