"People are not buying back yet," Bradley said, noting that sales in Nebraska, Montana and other states that have had good rain have been better than in Texas. Even in western Oklahoma, which has largely recovered from the drought, ranchers remain nervous.
Many who are buying animals now are putting out money with the hope that they'll make it back in a few years if beef prices remain high.
Dealers are doing better. Jim Schwertner, president of Capitol Land and Livestock, had a 25 percent increase in business last year as ranchers sold off animals at the height of the drought. He's still buying now, about 3,000 head of cattle a day that he turns around in 24 hours. With solid demand for meat and a relatively low supply of cattle, beef prices are up, and he expects them to stay that way.
"You'll see a three year process before we can normalize the supply," Schwertner said. "It's three years from the time you buy a cow and a bull before you get that steak on your table."
And it will certainly be more expensive.
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