No Feed! Ranchers Face Drought Disaster

Ranchers on both sides of the 49th parallel are telling similar stories. In 2011 Fred Verch of Eganville, Ontario, spent $4,000 on hay because his fields were lush. He told CBC he has already had to spend $80,000 this year. His fields are so dry he knows there will be no second cut.

On the south side of the border, Kansas rancher Ken Grecian told the Associated Press a similar story. By the third week of July he had sold off 40 of his 300 cow-calf pairs and expects to sell more, though he knows rebuilding his herd will take years.

Grasslands are burning. Livestock are suffering from the heat. Feed prices are rising. Auction prices are dropping. The forecast is for dry, hot weather right through the growing season. Ranchers watching their fields burn know they will have no feed come winter.

Drought By the Numbers

In two Care2 posts in July, bloggers quantified the issues facing the livestock industry. Jeff Fecke detailed the extent of the drought in the U.S.:

The United States is in its worst drought since 1956, according to a report by the National Climatic Data Center. A full third of the country was suffering from severe to extreme short-term drought, up from 23 percent in May. Overall, 56 percent of the country is in drought conditions, including much of the Plains and Midwest.

Kristina Chew tallied the impact of a reduced corn crop on the price of eggs, dairy and meat:

The price of a bushel a corn is now $8, up 50 percent from where it was last year, as 88 percent of the corn crop has been affected by the drought. Poultry prices are expected to rise immediately (3.5 to 4.5 percent by later this year) due to the rising price of corn feed. Egg prices are also expected to rise (as much as 4 percent) and those for milk, pork and beef to follow next year. Dairy products are to increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent, pork 2.5 to 3.5 percent and beef, 4 to 5 percent.

Next: Government Responses Only Stopgap

On August 13th Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to assist farmers, ranchers, small businesses and communities by buying $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish. The meat will be used in federal food nutrition programs and food banks.

Although much of Canada has avoided the worst of the drought, farmers in Ontario and Quebec are appealing to the federal government to offer assistance with feed costs. Ontario Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, Ted McMeekin has asked Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to assist livestock producers through the AgriRecovery framework.

Any temporary relief can only be a stopgap measure, as long-range forecasts predict drought conditions will become increasingly common and severe. While responding to immediate needs in the livestock industry, governments need to work with that sector to address environmental impacts issues that will only increase if global demand for meat continues to rise.

Food security involves all parts of the food system, from seed to plate. Placing this year’s drought in the context of a warming planet raises significant, long-range questions. One of them is whether or not humans should be eating meat at all. That is a large and contentious issue. Two Care2 posts published in 2010 still do a good job of exploring the associated aspects of the question:


Related Care2 Stories

U.S. in Worst Drought Since 1956

Drought Raises Beef, Poultry Prices: Time to Go Meatless?

1,000 Dairy Calves Left to Die in Midwest Heat Wave

Global Warming Could Scorch America’s Breadbasket

Animals Are Essential to Sustainable Food (On the Other Hand)


Photo credits: Thinkstock

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Rosemary Lowe

Great comments, Heather. The human addiction to animal flesh is destroying the planet, cruelty to animals, and utimately affecting our health. In the West, we see our forests, water, soil, grasslands decimated by the Livestock Industry, which also demands that wolves, coyotes & other wildlife be slaughtered by the millions every year--at taxpayer expense.
Crops that have been grown in the midwest and the west, are largely produced for livestock feed, which is a terrible waste of soil and water. Now, the drought-ridden soil is becoming useless. Large semi trucks by the hundreds are taking hay to ranchers for feeding livestock, again much of this, a government subsidy. The ecosystem is dying. Ranchers need to go, particularly those who get subsidies to graze livestock on Wilderness, National Forests, BLM lands, and even Wildlife Refuges--Public Lands which wildlife needs to survive.
If we want to save Nature and her native wildlife, Public Lands Ranchers need to get off our Public Lands Now.

Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Connie T.
con t.2 years ago


anne r.
Tom R.3 years ago

This is a sad commentary on the climate and disaster that we are facing.

Heather Hulce
Heather Haney3 years ago

*has had a direct effect*

Heather Hulce
Heather Haney3 years ago

Barbra D., I highly doubt anyone can judge where or how another person lives based on their comments unless they explicitly state those facts, or whether they are adept at any particular field. We're at a general consensus that the world is in trouble. That statement only requires a look outside. I do happen to live in a rural area, have almost always lived in rural areas, and have had a garden for several years. I, for one, am more than aware that as things heat local fauna wither. And I have done a fair bit of studying. Your diet does have an affect on the planet, and on the survival of the human race. We could prevent, reverse, or even cure over 69 diseases just by strictly limiting or ending our consumption of animal products. In any case what I eat has made a direct affect on MY life. In fact, I'm sure that it has returned time that my previous diet would have squandered. The state of the world is not under debate, and the facts have been clearly presented. I would wager that none of us would even be on this article if we didn't have even the most rudimentary understanding. The thing I don't get is why people get so defensive about their dietary habits simply because I stated mine.

Kirsten P.
Kirsten P.3 years ago

If you want a full picture of how food ends up on your plate, watch the documentary 'Food Inc.' We should all be aware of where our food comes from and how the system is run.

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B.3 years ago

This is very sad:(

Edo R.
Edo R.3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Dianne D.
Dianne D.3 years ago

This is what happen when greedy man takes, and takes and takes and never gives back.