Farmers who raise cattle are losing money in areas ranging from western Canada to the northern states of Mexico.
They struggle to find enough food for their animals due to very dry conditions called drought.
Some farmers buy feed for their animals in other parts of North America, but it costs too much for others.
Dianne Riding herds cattle in Lake Francis, Manitoba. She is a rancher. She told Reuters news agency that she recently had to sell 51 of her cattle, around 40 percent of the herd.
Some of the cattle were young females who were expected to give birth to many babies in the future. She said the sale of the young cows was “heartbreaking” or sad.
She can earn money now to sell the cattle, but her income will not be as high in the years to come.
“It’s your future,” she said of the young cows.
Other ranchers and livestock experts have said that while people like Riding continue to sell their animals, the supply of beef will go down and the price of meat in North America will go up.
Drought is affecting parts of western North America. The fields where the cows eat grass are dry. The fruits are not growing well in Washington. And California is having its worst wildfire season.
Climate scientists say global warming will make droughts more frequent. But some farmers believe the current drought is part of a cycle it will end soon. Even Riding, who had to sell his cows, believes the drought will ease soon.
Gloria Montano Green works for the US Department of Agriculture. She said there is a clear link between drought and climate change.
“We are seeing climate change,” she said.
With dry fields, some farmers in western Canada brought food for their livestock from Prince Edward Island, located more than 3,000 kilometers to the east.
Brian Perillat works for CanFax, a company that tracks the cattle market in Canada. He said that in a normal year the breeders gather about 10 percent of their older animals. But because of the drought, they’re probably going to cut down two or three times as many. His company has not seen such large herd reductions in a year since 1970.
Cattle live all over the United States, so not all herds are affected. But research from the US Drought Monitor shows that ranchers in some areas will be reducing their herd sizes more than usual this year.
Pat Boone raises cattle in New Mexico. He said he had reduced his herd by about half this year.
“Our land is injured, and it is seriously injured,” he said. It will take time for him to buy and raise more cattle. “We are not going to be in a hurry,” he added.
Mike von Massow is studying agricultural economics in Ontario. He said the reduction in the number of cows today affects the livestock supply for many years. “You got this hangover,” he said.
Riding, the Manitoba breeder, said that while the weather will soon improve and the fields turn green again, it will take several years for young cows to start having babies.
And if the ranchers have problems, the people in the United States will pay more for the beef.
Von Massow said that in Canada, after a drought in 2014, meat prices rose 25 percent and remained high for another two years.
Fernando Cadena is the head of the Mexican breeding company Carnes Ribe, based in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
He said farmers must wait for the fields to become healthy again.
“For months it just didn’t rain,” he says.
Greg Schmidt is president of a group of companies in Alberta, Canada that feed cows just before they are killed for food. He said all parts of the livestock industry will have problems.
” This will ripple in our industry for years, ”said Schmidt.
Steve Arnold is a breeder in California. Its land is approximately 300 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles. He said there has been less rain than usual for 12 of the past 15 years. But this year is the worst.
“We had some dry stuff but not like that,” he said.
I am Dan Friedell.
Rod Nickel and Tom Polansek wrote this story for Reuters. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learn English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in this story
cattle -not. large farm animals raised for milk and meat
rancher -not. a person who lives and works on a large farm to raise animals
herd -not. a group of large animals that live and are kept together
beef -not. cattle meat
cycle -not. a set of events that occur over and over again over time
hangover -not. the unpleasant effects of something that happened earlier; feeling unwell that occurs after drinking too much alcohol in the past
ripple –V. something like a wave that spreads out in time