Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Can Texas Ranchers, the Kings of Beef, Come Back from the Drought?

When it comes to beef production, Texas is at the top. There are twice as many cows in the state as Nebraska, the second biggest cattle-producing state. But after the devastating effects of the drought, with agricultural losses estimated in the billions, hay prices nearly tripling and massive selloffs of cattle, will Texas be able to make a comeback?

Nathan Bernier of KUT News, StateImpact Texas’ partner, has a new report on how the drought has hit ranchers and livestock owners hard, and the impact it will have on your next ribeye:

Ranchers sold off cattle in droves last year, sending prices temporarily lower as beef flooded the market. The United States Department of Agriculture says the number of cattle in Texas dropped by 10 percent in 2011. That’s an especially large decline when you consider Texas is the biggest beef producer in the country.

One livestock economist tells Bernier that there are fewer cows now in the country than there’s been in fifty years. Many cattlemen in Texas are now facing the big question: take their young cows and sell them off, assuming the drought will continue? Or keep them and breed them for more cattle, believing the drought will soon end? Bernier writes:

But holding on to heifers can be a double edged sword, especially in Texas where more than 90 percent of the state is still in drought. That’s why livestock economists have been urging ranchers not to overstock, and instead invest in things like hay storage.

But either way, you can expect to pay more at the checkout aisle. The USDA is forecasting that beef prices will rise by as much as ten percent this year and next.

Read the full story at KUT.


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