Cattlemen are being paid an all-time high per pound for their calves because there is an all-time low supply of cattle and calves in the world.. The USDA indicates that there are 100 million cattle and calves in the United States, which is the lowest number since the agency began keeping records in 1973.
“The farming conditions,” said LSU Ag Agent Andrew Granger about why the decline. “Many farmers are getting old and new ones are not getting in. Also, the last 20 years have not been profitable.”
Mother Nature and financial crises for cattle farmers are two big reasons there is a lack of cattle in the United States.
For the 600 cattlemen in Vermilion Parish, that is good news for an industry that has battled nothing but negative news for years. In the last five years, the parish, which ranks second in the state in the cattle industry, has had its Mother Nature problems which have forced a few farmers to get out of the business.
Two hurricanes flooded thousands of acres of cattle land and killed many head of cattle. The parish once had 45,000 head of cattle. Today, there are only 25,000. It is not because there is no land to place the cattle on.
Near Intracoastal City, there are thousands of acres of marshland that once had hundreds of cattle on it, but now sit empty. Although the prices are high, farmers are not willing to take the risk and put cattle back on the land. They fear another hurricane and a storm surge.
Getting back in the industry is expensive.
Kaplan cattle farmer Gordy Broussard, who was just voted the Abbeville Rotary 2010 Farmer of the Year, is one of the largest cattlemen in the parish.
“It is a good time, but it is not a good time to get in,” said Broussard at Wednesday’s Rotary meeting. “The price of cattle [to buy] is so high.”
Broussard said because the market price for beef is high, that also means the price for a momma cow is also high. When no one wanted beef 10 years ago, beef prices were low.
The Kaplan farmer has watched his herd count decline by 250 because of the hurricanes. He lost cattle and land due to the storm surges.
Broussard’s father won the Farmer of the Year award in the early 1980s. “I appreciate the award not only for myself, but for all of the cattle farmers in the parish. Because they get very little recognition,” said Broussard.