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Texas Drought Takes Cow Numbers Down By 600K

LUBBOCK  (AP) — The worst drought in Texas’ history has led to the largest-ever one-year decline in the leading cattle-state’s cow herd, raising the likelihood of increased beef prices as the number of animals decline and demand remains strong.

Since Jan. 1, the number of cows in Texas has dropped by about 600,000, a 12 percent decline from the roughly 5 million cows the state had at the beginning of the year, said David Anderson, who monitors beef markets for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. That’s likely the largest drop in the number of cows any state has ever seen, though Texas had a larger percentage decline from 1934 to 1935, when ranchers were reeling from the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, Anderson said.

Anderson said many cows were moved “somewhere there’s grass,” but lots of others were slaughtered. He said that in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas, about 200,000 more cattle were slaughtered this year, a 20 percent increase over last year.

That extra supply could help meet increased demand from China and other countries, but the loss of cows likely will mean fewer cattle in future years.

“Consumers are going to pay more because we’re going to have less beef,” Anderson said. “Fewer cows, calves, less beef production and increasing exports.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that beef prices will increase up to 5.5 in 2012, in part because the number of cattle has declined. That follows a 9 percent increase in beef prices in the past year.

Oklahoma, the nation’s second-largest cattle producer, also saw about a 12 percent drop in cows, Oklahoma State University agriculture economist Derrell Peel said.

Anderson said beef production nationally will be down 4 percent next year.

In Texas, the problem is primarily due to the worst single-year drought in the state’s history. From January through November the state got just 46 percent of its normal rainfall of about 26 inches.

The drought was the result of a La Nina weather pattern, which brings drier than normal conditions to the southwestern states. Forecasters have said La Nina is back, meaning another dry year for Texas, Oklahoma and other nearby states.

The lack of rain coupled with blistering summer heat caused pastures to wither, leaving rancher with the choice of buying feed for the cattle or selling them.

Betsy Ross, a 75-year-old rancher from the small central Texas community of Granger, said she sold all but 80 of the 225 grass-fed animals she had in January. With feed costs up 40 percent and her pasture parched, Ross said she didn’t have any other option.

“It’s not a profitable year, heavens no,” she said. “If you can’t keep them on grass when they’re grass fed you’re not going to make any money.”

About 200 miles north in Sulphur Springs, Texas, part-time rancher Dwyatt Bell said producers in his part of the state sold off up to half their herds. Bell said high prices for cattle have helped offset increases expenses, but many ranchers still are struggling to stay afloat.

“It’s been a rough year,” he said.

Across Texas, the drought has caused an estimated $5.2 billion in losses to farmers and livestock producers, and that figure is expected to rise

Nationally, the number of cows has dropped by an estimated 617,000 this year, a 2 percent decline from the 30.9 million animals on Jan. 1. That number would be larger, but states in northern plains such as North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, increased their cow herd.

Anderson said it’s unclear whether high beef prices would hurt U.S. sales or limit exports. The U.S. is the world third largest consumer of beef per capita at 85.5 pounds per year. Uruguay is first at 137 pounds per capita.

“Exports have been the strongest part of beef demand all year and they’re expected to remain so but higher prices should constrain their growth,” he said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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  • Tucker Thomas

    Two things I will be doing in 2012:
    1 pray for more rain
    2. Vote for Ron Paul

    • Mike

      Ron Paul is a nut…

    • Stephen

      Ron Paul won’t help.

    • TheTruth


  • Susan

    It will require a bit more than just rain when it does come to geting the pastures back to the point of supporting livestock. It’s a dust bowl in many places. Grass is long gone and so are water supplies. Even when the rains do come, you just can’t put livestock back on them immediately. Pastures have to mature. Worst thing you can do as a farmer/rancher/livestock producer is OVER pasture your grass.

  • yarply

    I don’t believe its La Nina or what ever. I believe the oil spill and the dispersants used have messed up the evaporation rate of the water in the gulf and harmed the oceans jet stream and undersea currents.

    • allamericanmark

      Nearly ALL weather systems travel west to east, and thus the systems that bring moisture to the South West traverse west to east. If you could read a map you’d see that the Gulf of Mexico is East of Texas. The only systems that bring your rain off the coast is hurricanes, and the occasional low pressure trough. While the usual systems do draw moisture from the gulf that produces rain in Texas, you still need the system to pass east. Right now the La Nina is causing those systems to swing north and then east bypassing AZ, NM, & TX causing our drought. None of this has any thing remotely to do with the oil spill. Try to pay more attention in school.

      • Stephen

        Studied meterology and can tell you that 40 percent of the rain that occurs on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana comes from the Gulf when fronts stall and go inland as a warm front. Weak La Nina has no effect on this process, but it is damn possible that an oily film on the Gulf caused by millions of gallons of oil distillate and chemicals that were used to disperse this oil is to cause. I am going to do a controlled experiment to check this hyphothesis and go after BP if it proves out. Pay more attention in school my a##. Stop drinking the oil company kool aid.

      • Stephen

        Also school boy, you should come to the coast of Tx and watch the clouds from the gulf roll inland ahead of those west to east systems. Lately there is a small amount of clouds rolling inland.

    • Heartland Patriot

      You got any proof of that?

      • yarply

        I said I believe its the oil spill not, it IS the oil spill so I don’t need any proof.

      • yarply

        Of course I did come up with this theory on the FACT that certain substances do mess with the evaporation rate of salt and fresh water.
        A minuscule amount of oil in water will stop it from evaporation unless the water oil mixture is basically heated to the boiling point of fresh water. So in a sense I do have proof. But just enough proof for a theory.

    • hiltonsgnlvr

      I think it was aliens led by Ron Paul. Moron!

      • Albert Barlow

        A fire, go into it.

    • weather bug

      say what? go to financial sense dot com and search for Evilyn Garrison’s latest interview (the “weather lady”). It’s La Nina combined with the pacific decadal oscillation. Get educated homie

    • hillcoguy


    • Stephen

      I hadn’t even thougth of that, but your are probably on to something. La Nina rarely lasts more than six months and here we are at almost two years of no rain in Texas and surrounding states. The cooler temps that they are showing in the pacific are such a small departure from normal, that we should not have this severe a drought

  • WeeWillie

    Let the cattle starve. The fodder is need to feed the some 35 k wild horse in BLM carrells. Horses are sacred not beef producing cattle.

    • Heartland Patriot

      Where the heck are you from that you can’t even spell corral?

      • hiltonsgnlvr

        Has a Wee Willie is from the planet Ronus Paulus! And his hero rides a big white horse on the carousel of Milky Way! And if the wild horses vote hard a long, he might end up president of Kookoo Land. Way too many doobies there WeeOne!

    • yarply

      There is more profit in horse meat here lately.I may be wrong but I believe the government just gave the go ahead for horse slaughter in the states again.So instead of all those horses being shipped to mexico to be slaughtered they may be getting backed up here in the states as the slaughter houses “retool” their,err, plants.

      • WeeWillie

        WeeWillie was in a bit of a hurry to go to work. Misspelled corral. Perhaps sarcasm is not appreciated on the Internet. The fodder that feeds 35,000 horses could feed perhaps 100,000 cattle. The 35,000 horses in the BML feedlots should have long ago been converted into horse meat for export and horse hide for shoes. WeeWillie grew up in the West. Starving cattle is a sorry sight for him.

    • weather bug

      Um.. people like me buy those cattle to freeze and eat. How would the horses get any of it? Separate topic, but what value do horses have for humans these days? Do they affect ANY part of the ecosystem any more?

  • Pam

    I drove through that part of the country last summer. It was so sad to see the dry parched fields and the cattle out there in intense heat. Very upsetting.

  • GAM

    Read about HAARP

  • Jim

    Besides being about half right on cattle numbers,
    cattle fecundity and pasture carrying capacity is
    going to be down.

    It’s going to be a long way home.

    • weather bug

      some ranchers say no grass-fed cattle at all in 2013 if la nina returns as long as expected

  • Heartland Patriot

    Al Gore can go to Hades…and so can all these articles trying to bolster failing public support for that global warming/climate change mess. This is Texas; there have been droughts before this one, there will be droughts after this one. If you want to read about cattle being wiped out, read some J. Frank Dobie. I feel for the ranchers who have lost out on this round, but the die hards stick in there…there will be more rain coming, and good times will come again. Its just a matter of time…

  • tex
    produce your own animal feed 365 days a year

  • I. J. W.

    Although this has been the worse year with the lowest rainfall the drought really depends on how long this condition wil l last. As a teenager in the 50s I saw many farmers go broke from row crop failure. The Neches River dried up in holes in 1953 and we’re a long way from that now but another year or two and it will be a real drought with not only farmers and ranchers going out of business but cities will be out of luck when it comes to water supplies. There will have to be an extended period of rainfall this winter to do much good. If it’s a dry winter I’m not planting a thing and doing something else with my time.

  • Texas Drought Takes Cow Numbers Down By 600K « watchmanstrumpetblast
  • Winkycat

    This is why I advocate a pipeline that would take water from the Mississippi River to states like Texas where vast lagoons can be formed and meet the needs of both animal and man. It would help Texas agriculture and the money earned from the sale of this water will benefit the southern states where the Mississippi runs through. Just in Louisiana, rainfall per year is measured in feet. Louisiana gets around six feet of water that goes to the ocean.
    In Sri Lanka King Prakramabahu 1 created the Parakramabau’s sea a thousand years ago. He stated that not one drop of rain shall go unused. This inland sea located in the city of Polonaruwa is so large one cannot see land and is still used to this day.
    South India has similar massive “tanks’ or lagoons that catch the rainwater and I know it has been done in the US. But this news shows that Texas is big enough to create many inland “oceans” of fresh water to be used when drought comes visiting.

    • Aboilsh the EPA(and the Fed)

      Luckily, Sri Lanka and India didn’t have te EPA or they would have died of thirst. Who knows what endangered critter the king might have inconvenieced.

    • CW

      Some people seem to think moving excess water to where it is needed is a joke or a project that would be too expensive. If we used all of the money the Corp of Engineers has wasted on levies that do not work we could move the water to where it is needed.

  • Elsie

    Too bad the drought didn’t leave Texas with 600,000 fewer Democrats.

  • Philip Damon

    If we have less beef, wouldn’t it make sense to export less and save consumers at home money?

    • alternet09

      Keywords – “make sense”. There’s your problem.

  • Palin Smith

    Texas has always been a dry state. There are too many people already.
    Some of the Texas people need to come to Connecticut where there is too much water. Please come and change our voting habits.

  • CatNJ

    How about our government aiding these farmers instead of funding illegal immigration?

    • Nottheendofusa

      That would make too much sense.

    • Hunter Ochoa

      “like” this comment.


    […] (Second column, 8th story, link) […]

  • alternet09

    Interesting. When the market was flooded with an extra 20% of beef this year, there was no price decrease at my local supermarket, but because of the lack of rain, they expect consumer prices to increase. Something smells rotten, and its not the manure.

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  • Hunter Ochoa

    Expect to see Milk, cheese, butter, and beef prices to rise. Put your money here, though. No brainer investment opportunity

  • buck toof

    Desalination plant.

  • Dusty Rhodes

    jesus hates texas. its proof. it couldnt be that not happening climate change. this is proof that the cartoon christ lie, would rather watch the broncos than help you t- baggin’ rupublickers out…. texas is the armpit of the USA, and deserves to die a slow dry death.

    why dont you texas cowlicking goobers secede, the real america hates you.

  • Limestone

    Hard times do not excuse the writer’s calling all cattle “cows.”

    Bulls, cows, and calves all have been sold.

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