Texas ranchers adapt to record-breaking drought

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Although cattle ranchers in the Southwest have been hit hard by the worst one-year drought on record, a recent survey conducted by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association shows TSCRA members are adopting a variety of strategies to adapt to the current climate.

TSCRA’s Drought Impact Survey relays 84 percent of respondents said they have cut their herd size from their three-year average. Herds were reduced by an average 38 percent. These numbers, however, don’t reflect a 38 percent decrease in the overall size of the herd in Texas. Although many of these cattle have changed hands, few have moved out of state, said Joe Parker Jr., rancher and TSCRA president.

Individual herds were reduced through livestock market sales, early placement into feedyards, moving cattle to unused pastures or dry lots, or sending older cows to harvest, the survey indicates.

“These numbers indicate that the drought is certainly taking its toll on ranchers, but they also indicate that the industry is adapting to the weather,” said Parker. “If there is a silver lining to the drought, it may be that this has allowed us to see just how diverse the beef industry truly is.”

Eight percent of survey respondents indicate they will no longer own cattle in 2012, though many indicate this is only a temporary measure. No respondents indicated they plan to permanently exit the cattle business.

“Ranchers are committed to providing Americans with safe and healthy beef, and we will continue to do so — come rain or shine,” Parker said. “We’ve lived through droughts before and no doubt we will face them again. Rain will come and when it does, you can bet ranchers will rebuild their herds and the industry will come back stronger than ever.”

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association represents more than 15,000 beef cattle producers, ranching families and businesses who manage approximately 4 million head of cattle on 79.5 million acres of range and pasture land, primarily in Texas and Oklahoma.
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