Get Ready for Beef Prices To Soar Following TX Wildfires

Janine Passos /
Janine Passos /

As the flames danced across the Texas panhandle, there was little the cattle ranchers could do to stop the destruction. In the months prior, rains covered the land and gave their fields exceptional grass growth. Ranchers from other states had sent their cattle down to graze, and with the unusually warm weather, the grass had started drying up. While the cause of the fire is still “unknown,” one thing is for certain: it will have a dramatic impact on the price of beef.

As it is, each of these fully grown cattle sells for $2000 to $3000 a head at wholesale. With some ranchers losing as much as 25% of their herd, many are utterly destroyed due to the blaze. Even if the flames didn’t kill their cattle, smoke inhalation and damage from fleeing the danger can still require them to be euthanized. While many ranchers opted to bury them, some were able to find rendering plants to salvage some of their losses.

Only compounding that financial burden is the loss of barns, fencing, and grasslands. These assets provide ways to pay for their ranches during lean times. That money to make up for those losses has to come from somewhere, and insurance takes a long time to pay out. With fencing running $10k a mile, it isn’t a cheap repair for even the most basic of necessities to get the job done.

This means prices at cattle auctions are bound to go up, and with it, the cost of beef. It’s just the cost of doing business in a very specific niche.

Big-time ranchers plan their entire cattle line around specific genetics. They breed to stringent standards, and while many avoid hormones and antibiotics, those who administer them choose their drugs very carefully. Resetting much, if not the entire herd, takes time and money, and it can be near impossible to return to a once legendary level of success.