Without calves to naturally rebuild their herds, ranchers have to buy replacement stock. At auction, cattle are fetching record prices.
Cattlemen have long memories, which is why many Texas beef producers are holding off on replenishing herds they thinned during last year's historic drought.
As water supplies dried up, as grasses and wheat shriveled, and as the price of hay skyrocketed, local ranchers sold off tens of thousands of cattle they couldn't afford to keep.
"Last year, we sold off more than 23,000 cows. That was just cows -- not steers or calves. Just cows," says Randy Carson, owner of Abilene Livestock Auction.
"Now they're gone. They either went off north or off to the meatpacker. They ain't making calves this year," he says.
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