Drought-stricken Mont. ranchers sell calves early

YELLOWSTONE COUNTY

POSTED: 2:53 PM Oct 07 2012
cow in grass field
BILLINGS,Mont. -

Some ranchers in Montana are selling calves early after a summer that left them battered by drought, fires and high feed prices.

Tim Keifer has a beef ranch north of Forsyth and says that since the first of April, he's had just two inches of rain, and that means pastures that yielded 1,200 round hay bales last year couldn't muster even one this year. With little forage, he weaned his calves and shipped them to sale yards five weeks earlier than normal.

Keifer isn't alone. The number of cattle moving through Billings and Miles City auction yards was up more than 1,000 head a sale compared to the same dates a year earlier.

That means they're selling with less weight and that's less money for ranchers.