The two major contributing factors in the price of cattle are the number of cattle available for sale and the costs of feed that producers have to offset. Reductions in cattle herd numbers have a variety of causes, with some contributing more to losses than others. These causes can include disease outbreak, harsh seasonal weather and drought.
As of 2015, long-term drought in several areas of the United States, including the Central Plains, California and Texas, has severely limited the overall production of a number of cattle. In these areas affected by long-term drought, there is not enough water to support the grass and feed crops used to feed cattle, forcing producers to reduce the number of cattle present in their herds. The practice of selling cattle to slaughterhouses by hard-hit producers in order to mitigate money losses further compounds the fewer number of cattle available at sale barns and auctions.
The market value of corn also affects the price of cattle because these crops are used to manufacture feeds used by producers. When corn production is affected by disease, drought or deluge, it causes the prices of corn to increase and in turn causes the prices cattle feed to increase.