The recent years of drought will claim another Cargill victim in 2014 as the company announced its plans to shut down its Lockney cattle feed yard next summer.
"It's a decision that we hated to make," said Michael Martin of Wichita, Kan., director of communications at Cargill. "We just couldn't justify keeping it open."
The company is citing dwindling numbers in the region's cattle supply as the reason for the shutdown of Cargill Cattle Feeders Lockney, which has been in operation since 1985.
Martin said it's just been a chain reaction caused by years of extreme drought conditions which initially forced the Cargill meat processing plant in Plainview to idle last January.
Lack of moisture has caused a deep loss in the amount of harvested grain used to feed cattle.
"We've seen a gradual rise in the cost of feed," said Martin, who said the cost of feeding a cow for the day has risen in from $2 a day to $8, because of the drought that is now in its third year
On top of that, resources like pastures and open water holes have disappeared as an options for local cattle producers, as Martin said the drought has burned up them up in the last several years.
With the overhead cost of raising cattle skyrocketing, cattle producers have naturally chosen to thin out their herd if they haven't sold out completely to meat processing plants.
"The U.S. has the lowest cattle numbers since 1952," said Martin.
Martin did say, however, that recent rains have helped to produce a decent harvest of grain such as corn, which is a major component in livestock feed.
"Recent rains have helped to build the harvest, and hopefully it will entice cattle producers to build their livestock," Martin said.
But Martin added that even if trends continue, experts say it will be at least 2016 before the cattle population grows toward its formal glory.
So after consideration, Cargill has elected to close and sale its Lockney feed yard, which employs around 45 people and has a capacity of 6,200 head of cattle.
"Like in Plainview, we will be working to find these employees other jobs within Cargill," said Martin.
Martin said it will utilize feed yards closer to processing plants in Friona and Dalhart to house their cattle, but added that Cargill only receives around 15 percent of its beef supply from their local feed yards.
Plainview's meat processing plant is still idling indefinably, but Martin said that Friona's meat processing plant, which absorbed Plainview's work load, is still going strong despite dropping cattle numbers.
"We are working 40 hours-plus in Friona and have no intentions of closing that plant," Martin said.
Copyright 2013 - Plainview Daily Herald, Texas