Ranchers will fork out less cash for their cows

By Cody Hooks
chooks@taosnews.com
Posted 2/28/19

The cost of a cow on federal land is going down, which is good news for ranchers working in the margins of the country's cattle industry.Ranchers will have to pay …

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Ranchers will fork out less cash for their cows

Posted

The cost of a cow on federal land is going down, which is good news for ranchers working in the margins of the country's cattle industry.

Ranchers will have to pay slightly less per head in 2019 than last season.

Starting Friday (March 1), each "animal unit month" and "head month" -- the federal jargon for the cost of one cow and her calf, one horse or five sheep or goats -- is dropping from $1.41 to $1.35. The change applies to animals on properties managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, like the Carson National Forest or the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.

That might not sound like a dramatic change, but it's tied to the rise and fall of the cattle market.

"This is reflective of the fact that the cattle market has been down for a while," said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers' Association, a trade organization.

The formula for calculating grazing fees -- established by Congress in 1978 -- is based on several financial factors: the going price for grazing leases on private land, cattle prices once taken to market and the overall cost of livestock production.

"Cattle prices went higher than ever in the last bad drought, around 2011 and 2012. Everyone was reducing their herds but since 2013, they've been restocking," Cowan said. "Now that herds are grown back, that's what drives the price down."

The change was announced by the two federal agencies Feb. 20. The new grazing fees affect 16 states in the western U.S., including New Mexico, which works out to about 24,500 grazing permits administered across both agencies.

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