Texas cattle herd headed for biggest drop in history | TSLN.com
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Texas cattle herd headed for biggest drop in history

KISSIMMEE, FL (DTN) – A Texas cattleman dropped his head and covered his face with a program when a photo of lush, green pasture flashed on the presenter’s screen.

“Look at that grass,” Larry Pratt said during a presentation at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association summer meeting. A historic drought across the Southern Plains caused tales echoing in the hallways of painful choices, shared most by ranchers whose name badges included a TX or OK. Yet, several economists pointed out the market is giving strong signals to rebuild the long-dwindling herd.

“It seems like it’s been our year for disasters,” said Texas Farm Bureau cattle specialist Jon Johnson about the drought and wildfires that scorched more than a million acres this spring. “We’re just praying for a hurricane as devastating as that is. We’ll survive. We always have. We always will.”



There’s simply no water left in many parts of Texas. Hay prices are skyrocketing. Silage quality and availability are doubtful. Some ranchers are burning pastures and feeding prickly pear just to keep their cattle alive.

Dairy feed and the dairy cows themselves are drying up. Breeding stock is being sent to slaughter. Half-mile-long lines of semis form at the sale barns before 7 a.m., many of them turned away because there aren’t enough hours in the day to sell all the cattle. Freshly-weaned calves are going on feed. Some are shipped out of state.



“We’re estimating that the beef cow herd on Jan. 1, 2012, will be 600,000 to 750,000 head smaller year-to-year in Texas,” said Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center. That’s the largest numerical drop in history and the second largest percentage decrease. “If it got really ugly, you could forecast on the outside about getting to a million year-to-year. We’re not expecting that at this point in time. We have cows in feedlots; we’ve got cows moving states. We’ve got people struggling in cases. But we’re on the cusp where you could get to that.”

Don Smith, who runs a dairy operation in Sulphur Springs, TX, said two dairies near him shuttered their barns in the past three weeks. It’s literally drying up as weeks of 100 degree temperatures wear on. “We keep running them through the barns for fun. They don’t want to eat” and have stopped producing milk. He said his cows try to splash what little water is in their troughs on the ground, so they can cool down in a mud puddle.

Bo Kizziar, chairman of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and feedlot operator in the Texas Panhandle, said he put 5,000 calves on pasture and cake in Oklahoma Panhandle in February, which he does every year until they’re ready to go to the feedlot in October.

“This week we’re bringing the last 500 head,” he said. “We started the first of July, thinking we were waiting on a rain. So we lightened up a little bit, hoped it’d rain the next week. And we didn’t get the rain next week so we pulled in another four loads. We just progressed until we’ll have all 5,000 head in the feedlot.”

KISSIMMEE, FL (DTN) – A Texas cattleman dropped his head and covered his face with a program when a photo of lush, green pasture flashed on the presenter’s screen.

“Look at that grass,” Larry Pratt said during a presentation at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association summer meeting. A historic drought across the Southern Plains caused tales echoing in the hallways of painful choices, shared most by ranchers whose name badges included a TX or OK. Yet, several economists pointed out the market is giving strong signals to rebuild the long-dwindling herd.

“It seems like it’s been our year for disasters,” said Texas Farm Bureau cattle specialist Jon Johnson about the drought and wildfires that scorched more than a million acres this spring. “We’re just praying for a hurricane as devastating as that is. We’ll survive. We always have. We always will.”

There’s simply no water left in many parts of Texas. Hay prices are skyrocketing. Silage quality and availability are doubtful. Some ranchers are burning pastures and feeding prickly pear just to keep their cattle alive.

Dairy feed and the dairy cows themselves are drying up. Breeding stock is being sent to slaughter. Half-mile-long lines of semis form at the sale barns before 7 a.m., many of them turned away because there aren’t enough hours in the day to sell all the cattle. Freshly-weaned calves are going on feed. Some are shipped out of state.

“We’re estimating that the beef cow herd on Jan. 1, 2012, will be 600,000 to 750,000 head smaller year-to-year in Texas,” said Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center. That’s the largest numerical drop in history and the second largest percentage decrease. “If it got really ugly, you could forecast on the outside about getting to a million year-to-year. We’re not expecting that at this point in time. We have cows in feedlots; we’ve got cows moving states. We’ve got people struggling in cases. But we’re on the cusp where you could get to that.”

Don Smith, who runs a dairy operation in Sulphur Springs, TX, said two dairies near him shuttered their barns in the past three weeks. It’s literally drying up as weeks of 100 degree temperatures wear on. “We keep running them through the barns for fun. They don’t want to eat” and have stopped producing milk. He said his cows try to splash what little water is in their troughs on the ground, so they can cool down in a mud puddle.

Bo Kizziar, chairman of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and feedlot operator in the Texas Panhandle, said he put 5,000 calves on pasture and cake in Oklahoma Panhandle in February, which he does every year until they’re ready to go to the feedlot in October.

“This week we’re bringing the last 500 head,” he said. “We started the first of July, thinking we were waiting on a rain. So we lightened up a little bit, hoped it’d rain the next week. And we didn’t get the rain next week so we pulled in another four loads. We just progressed until we’ll have all 5,000 head in the feedlot.”

KISSIMMEE, FL (DTN) – A Texas cattleman dropped his head and covered his face with a program when a photo of lush, green pasture flashed on the presenter’s screen.

“Look at that grass,” Larry Pratt said during a presentation at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association summer meeting. A historic drought across the Southern Plains caused tales echoing in the hallways of painful choices, shared most by ranchers whose name badges included a TX or OK. Yet, several economists pointed out the market is giving strong signals to rebuild the long-dwindling herd.

“It seems like it’s been our year for disasters,” said Texas Farm Bureau cattle specialist Jon Johnson about the drought and wildfires that scorched more than a million acres this spring. “We’re just praying for a hurricane as devastating as that is. We’ll survive. We always have. We always will.”

There’s simply no water left in many parts of Texas. Hay prices are skyrocketing. Silage quality and availability are doubtful. Some ranchers are burning pastures and feeding prickly pear just to keep their cattle alive.

Dairy feed and the dairy cows themselves are drying up. Breeding stock is being sent to slaughter. Half-mile-long lines of semis form at the sale barns before 7 a.m., many of them turned away because there aren’t enough hours in the day to sell all the cattle. Freshly-weaned calves are going on feed. Some are shipped out of state.

“We’re estimating that the beef cow herd on Jan. 1, 2012, will be 600,000 to 750,000 head smaller year-to-year in Texas,” said Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center. That’s the largest numerical drop in history and the second largest percentage decrease. “If it got really ugly, you could forecast on the outside about getting to a million year-to-year. We’re not expecting that at this point in time. We have cows in feedlots; we’ve got cows moving states. We’ve got people struggling in cases. But we’re on the cusp where you could get to that.”

Don Smith, who runs a dairy operation in Sulphur Springs, TX, said two dairies near him shuttered their barns in the past three weeks. It’s literally drying up as weeks of 100 degree temperatures wear on. “We keep running them through the barns for fun. They don’t want to eat” and have stopped producing milk. He said his cows try to splash what little water is in their troughs on the ground, so they can cool down in a mud puddle.

Bo Kizziar, chairman of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and feedlot operator in the Texas Panhandle, said he put 5,000 calves on pasture and cake in Oklahoma Panhandle in February, which he does every year until they’re ready to go to the feedlot in October.

“This week we’re bringing the last 500 head,” he said. “We started the first of July, thinking we were waiting on a rain. So we lightened up a little bit, hoped it’d rain the next week. And we didn’t get the rain next week so we pulled in another four loads. We just progressed until we’ll have all 5,000 head in the feedlot.”


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