Texas drought losses nearing $1 billion

by Bryan Salvage
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COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — Drought conditions in Texas have cost that state’s ranchers and farmers approximately $1 billion, and losses could continue to mount this spring unless sufficient rainfall is received for forage or row crops, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service economists.

Rainfall one week ago over much of Texas was too little, too late as the continuing drought has cost livestock producers $569 million since November. Agriculture officials said cattle producers have incurred the expense of buying hay and supplemental feed to make up for a shortage in wheat crops and other land normally used for cattle grazing.

AgriLife Extension economists said the ongoing drought has cost Texas $829 million to date since just November. Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist, said losses will likely go over the $1 billion mark within the next 50 days as livestock producers continue to make supplemental feed purchases or sell cattle and calves in a declining market.

"The lack of rain has reduced wheat grazing production, resulting in less forage available and lost income from grazing," Mr. Anderson said. "Texas is the largest beef cow producing state in the United States with more than 5 million head. More than 60% of the state’s beef cows are located in counties categorized as being in severe to exceptional drought.

"The effects of drought on livestock go well beyond the immediate year," he added. "Drought results in reduced conception rates and calf crops the next year. The lack of feed results in lower cattle sale weights. Range and pasture recovery from drought can take multiple years and can result in reduced stocking rates while ranges recover."

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