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Texas Cattle Herd May Take Years To Rebuild

The Texas cattle herd, America’s largest, could take five to seven years to rebuild to the level it was before much of the state was scorched by nearly two years of drought, a top cattleman said March 19.

Dave Scott, president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), said while the drought was over, herd rebuilding efforts have been hampered by too much rain that has hurt pasture growth in some areas, many ranchers being short on cash, and high input costs.

“We are looking at five to seven years to get back close to where we were, if you look at the health of the industry,” Scott said ahead of the TSCRA’s annual convention in Fort Worth.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s semi-annual cattle inventory report pegged the U. S. herd at 93.7 million head as of Jan. 1, compared with an upwardly adjusted 94.52 million head a year ago. It was the smallest herd since there were 93.32 million cattle on ranches in January 1951.

In Texas, the statewide herd was 13.3 million, versus 13.6 million last year, and about 14 million in January 2007, which was before the drought really set in. The drought began in 2007 and went to 2009.

“Most of the ranchers are not going to just jump in and restock their numbers all at once and spend that kind of capital,” he told Reuters in an interview.

For one thing, many ranchers are short on capital after they were forced to buy far more supplemental feed than usual in the face of the drought, which in parts of south and central Texas was the worst on record.

Forage in some areas, such as the coastal bend region of the state, remains in short supply and farmers still have to buy supplemental feed. Muddy fields from rains are also preventing some ranchers from getting to their cattle.

“I’d say supplemental feeding has been above average given the winter we’ve had, which was wet and cold. It will affect your bottom line at the end of the day,” he said.

“The cost of doing business is as much as it’s ever been, when you look at feed, fertilizer, and fuel,” he said.

Beef prices are up but many farmers simply do not have the cattle to take advantage of the situation.

Demand for beef normally increases going into spring and summer as the warmer weather has cookout enthusiasts anxious to fire up backyard grills and wanting steaks to put on them.

But the economic outlook and recovery from the recession also remain uncertain with joblessness still high.

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