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Agriculture Today

Livestock producers are culling into the ‘hearts of herds’

Livestock producers are culling into the ‘hearts of herds’
Cattle sold on July 15 beat the heat in the shade at the Athens Commission Co. in Athens. Faced with the lack of grazing, hay, and water, Texas livestock producers are cutting into the “hearts of herds” that they may have spent years building up, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

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July 27, 2011
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Faced with lack of grazing, dwindling hay supplies, and shrinking surface water sources, livestock producers continue to cull deeper into herds, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

“They’re culling a lot deeper than they normally would, and they’re culling a lot harder than they normally would,” said Rick Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent for Henderson County, west of Tyler. “And they’re culling into the heart of their herds.”

By “heart of their herds,” Hirsch meant heifers and 3- to 6-year-old cows that should form the core of future production.

Producers are also selling calves early.

In Henderson County, sales have been in the range of 2,500 to 3,000 head per week at the Athens Commission Co., he said. During an average year in July, weekly sales counts should be more like 1,600 to 2,000 head.

“Statewide, I’ve been hearing huge numbers from auction markets in Central and West Central Texas,” Hirsch said. “The numbers have been astronomical for this time of year.”

According to reports from AgriLife Extension personnel in the Rolling Plains, area sale barns were turning people away because their sales were running so long.

It will take years to rebuild these herds, Hirsch noted.

“Partly because of the sheer numbers being culled, and the other (factor) is the higher cost of production,” Hirsch said. “We have higher cattle prices right now, and that is helping the situation. But the high cost of replacements, the cost of fertilizer, and the cost of fuel -- all will make it harder to build numbers back up.”

Training programs and information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported extremely dry conditions with above-normal temperatures prevailed. The cotton and soybean harvests were under way. Grain sorghum and corn yields were low due to the drought. Livestock producers were feeding hay. Most producers thinned herds. Stock-water tanks continued to dry up.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported very short soil-moisture levels were the rule throughout the region. The only counties with adequate soil moisture conditions were Willacy County with 65 percent and Cameron County with 100 percent. Rangeland and pastures were bone dry, and surface water was quickly evaporating because of 100-plus degree days. Many ranchers did not have enough surface water for cattle. Wildlife were also suffering from lack of water. Much water that was available was very saline and not healthful for cattle or wildlife. What cattle remained that were not culled were in fair condition with heavy supplemental feeding.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the National Weather Service continued to forecast a gradual weather improvement, but very little rainfall was received. Scattered rains accompanied by wind with gusts up to 50 mph damaged trees, fences, and roofs. However, only about a third of an inch of moisture was received, and the region remained very dry and under wildfire alerts. The corn, sorghum, and grape harvests were ongoing. Peanuts, cotton, pecans, and landscape nursery crops continued to make good progress wherever irrigation water was still available. Forage availability remained well below average. Ranchers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock.

Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

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