Ranchers remain cautious about rebuilding herds
ROBERT BURNS/Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
The fall calving season was in progress in many parts of the state. Despite improved soil-moisture and forage conditions, livestock producers generally remained cautious about rebuilding herds, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef personnel.
COLLEGE STATION -- Livestock producers are certainly more optimistic this fall than last year, but generally they remain extremely cautious when it comes to rebuilding herds and holding onto forage stocks, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef expert. (See PDF "US Drought Monitor" below)
“There is more optimism, but at the same time they’re very cautious right now because they’re still trying to allow pastures to recover and make sure they have some forage reserves for the next drought,” said Dr. Jason Cleere, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, College Station.
The 2012 drought was devastating for many of the state’s beef producers. Lack of grazing and depleted hay stocks forced them to cull or disperse herds altogether, Cleere said.
Nationwide, beef cattle inventories dropped 3 percent last year, he said. For those not familiar with the beef cattle business, 3 percent may not seem like much.
“But we’d already had a shrunken cowherd because of a number of years of drought and dispersals. As a result, we now have the smallest cowherd that the United States has had in the past 60 years,” Cleere said.
“We hear the 3 percent nationally, but here in Texas it was a whole lot worse,” he said. “In some of the counties, it was pretty devastating.”
The drought is far from over, but many areas have had considerable relief. According to the Oct. 9 U.S. Drought Monitor, only about 16 percent of the state was still suffering from extreme drought, compared to 97 percent a year ago.
As a result, hay supplies have been rebuilt and, though not fully recovered, many pastures and rangeland have improved considerably, Cleere said. Now, with the improved forage situation and high market prices because of decreased herd sizes, some livestock producers would like to utilize that improved grazing, and buy back some of the cattle that were sold north last year.
“Yesterday, I talked to a number of ranchers, and those ranchers are looking to buy some of those cattle and bring them back to Texas,” he said.
But replacement prices are high, and those same ranchers remain cautious, he said.
“They can’t afford to go through what they went through last year.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries Oct. 9-15:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported some parts of the region got 0.25 inch to 2 inches of rain, greening up pastures and somewhat replenishing stock water tanks. All of the region had mild fall weather. Warm-season row crops were harvested, about half of the cotton modules had been moved from the fields to gins. Oats were up and looking good. Livestock were in good condition.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported the region had scattered showers and cooler temperatures early in the week, followed by above-average temperatures. Farmers continued to work fields, plowing under volunteer cotton or killing the seedlings with herbicides. They were also busy planting winter wheat, oats, and other cool-season annuals. Some producers were taking the last hay cutting for the season. Cattle remained in good condition. The pecan nut load was very heavy and causing much limb breakage. Late-season rains promoted the development of pecan scab.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.