DROUGHT continues to take its toll on the cattle industry, with Cargill announcing plans this week to close its feedlot in Lockney, Texas at some point next summer. The feedyard, with capacity to handle 62,000 head, sits only 15 miles from the processing plant the company idled earlier this year.
Part of the Cargill Beef operation since 1985, the Lockney feed yard employs 45 people, who will now find employment elsewhere in the Cargill system. No date has been set for the facility’s closure, but company spokesman Mike Martin told Feedstuffs that the facility will be closed and offered for sale sometime during the summer of 2014.
“The reason for the closure is the ongoing impact of drought to the region’s depleted cattle supply,” Martin said. “There are no plans to close any other Cargill Beef facilities in the region.”
Cargill operates two other feedlots in the Texas Panhandle, at Bovina and Dalhart. Lockney supplied the Plainview beef processing facility, marked as the first major casualty of a multi-year drought in the region that has severely limited cattle supplies.
The company idled the Plainview plant, capable of processing 5,000 head of cattle per day, Feb. 1 due to the cattle supply situation in the Lone Star State. Cargill’s remaining beef cattle plants in Friona, Texas; Dodge City, Kan., and Ft. Morgan, Colo., continue to operate and process cattle, but the closure of the Lockney feedlot leaves the Bovina and Dalhart yards as the only company-owned facilities to supply the Friona plant.
“In addition to the other feedlots Cargill owns in the region, and the non-Cargill lots we buy cattle from, we will continue to buy cattle on the sport market to ensure Friona has an adequate supply,” Martin said. He told the Plainview Daily Herald that the Friona plant only sources about 15% of its production from company-owned yards.
Each of the Cargill-owned facilities in the region is within a roughly 100-mile radius of Amarillo.
The beef industry is marking an eighth-consecutive year of cattle liquidation, with analysts predicting that a national feedyard inventory as of Oct. 1, was more than 7% smaller than a year ago. The beef cow herd, meanwhile is the smallest it’s been since 1952 with drought destroying pastures and forage supplies, and a confluence of factors driving feed costs to record levels in recent years.