Peanuts aren’t the only food expected to be in short supply next year. Droughts across the Great Plains have led to high feed costs, and ranchers are shrinking their cattle herds in response. This year 7.6% of the U.S. beef supplies have already been slaughtered, which is the largest year-to-date liquidation on record.
Expensive feed and little water has prompted ranchers to even sell some of the cattle they normally hang on to, namely, heifers. Heifers are female cattle that have not yet given birth. These females represent the breeding future for herds, but ranchers, worried about too many mouths to feed, are more concerned about making it through the short-term.
What does all this mean to you, the consumer? Higher prices on beef products next spring as the surplus supplies of beef dry up and ranchers are left with fewer cattle to sell. Those increased prices are likely to continue for a few years, too, since ranchers have decreased their future herd potential by selling their heifers.
The worst news? The drought in the Southern and Western states isn’t expected to end until late next summer, at the earliest. This means farmers in the area will have little, if any, growing season, and ranchers may have to diminish their herds even more. As food supplies decrease and prices rise, we can all expect to feel the impact of this severe weather.