Texas cattle ranchers need water, aid fast

Articles
March 24, 2009

Texas cattle ranchers need water, aid fast

The perfect storm is about to hit Texas cattle ranchers—and the U.S. beef industry and consumers could soon be worse off as a result. This past January and February comprised the driest start of any year on record in the United States. That covers more than a century, meteorologists told USA Today. John Nielsen-Gammon, the climatologist for Texas, said the past eight months were the state’s driest ever. The result: parched land, little grass for cows to graze, and ranchers selling off parts of their herds, including mother cows used to produce calves and regenerate herds. Some ranchers’ herds are already one-third smaller, and the sell-offs are continuing, auctioneers told the paper. Texas Governor Rick Perry asked that all 254 counties be designated as disaster areas for 2009, and noted that “farmers and ranchers are unable to control the cause of their economic and physical losses, which exceed state, local and private sector assistance.”

The perfect storm is about to hit Texas cattle ranchers—and the U.S. beef industry and consumers could soon be worse off as a result.

This past January and February comprised the driest start of any year on record in the United States. That covers more than a century, meteorologists told USA Today. John Nielsen-Gammon, the climatologist for Texas, said the past eight months were the state’s driest ever.

The result: parched land, little grass for cows to graze, and ranchers selling off parts of their herds, including mother cows used to produce calves and regenerate herds. Some ranchers’ herds are already one-third smaller, and the sell-offs are continuing, auctioneers told the paper.

Texas Governor Rick Perry asked that all 254 counties be designated as disaster areas for 2009, and noted that “farmers and ranchers are unable to control the cause of their economic and physical losses, which exceed state, local and private sector assistance.”

Added Dr. Allan McGinty, Texas AgriLife Extension Service range specialist at San Angelo, “Soil moisture is almost non-existent in a large majority of our counties, resulting in an absence of cool-season forage plants for livestock. Dry forage conditions, higher than normal daytime temperatures and wind have added the additional risk of wildfire across most of the state.”

There’s no moisture in this perfect storm of Nature and financial turmoil. Cattle are being sent to premature deaths, life is harsh for those that remain, herds are shrinking, and cattle raisers are in their toughest bind in recent memory. It’s only a matter of time before this affects the broader consumer marketplace.

Nature aside, the right federal aid can help to stabilize and perpetuate cattle ranching in Texas for the long term. We urge that all reasonable energies be applied to keep this iconic profession afloat, to protect the quality of life of cattle, and provide a consistent supply of safe product to consumers nationwide.