Drought Relocation

September 30, 2011 03:46 PM

Texas cattle off to greener pastures

Ranchers throughout Texas have been suffering from drought for months. Now, many are taking their last option and moving cattle out of the state.

As the fall arrives without any sign of rain, thousands of head are leaving the state, according to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). Cattlemen are sending cows north to Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas or east to Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.

"We’re into something not many have ever seen," says Pete Bonds, TSCRA vice president. "Even if you look at droughts in the past, it has rained some, and this time it just hasn’t."

Bonds predicts that more than 10,000 cows will be relocated in September. He says larger ranches are looking to make long-term arrangements and it is likely the cows will never come back.

Lack of grass and water. "You can’t leave cows here, because there is virtually nothing left to eat," says Buzz Thorp, a rancher near Throckmorton, Texas. "If you leave your cows here, it’s going to take a lot longer for the land to recover."

Not everyone is relocating their cows, though. Bonds says a lot of producers are sitting on their hands, praying it will rain this fall—not because they have no grass but because they have no water. Hoping that it will rain enough to run water, many ranchers are forced to just wait it out.

Thorp says that depending on where your ranch is located, the cost of shipping hay south is about the same as the cost of shipping all of your cattle north.

For cattle moving north, calving in the winter is the dilemma. Thorp says anytime cattle are asked to adapt to new environments, especially during periods of stress, there are inherent risks to the calf crop.

Bonds encourages cattle producers to weigh their options carefully. Do not underestimate the value calves will have this fall and next spring if the corn crop is good, and make your management decisions accordingly, he adds.

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