Ranchers Recovering Slowly from Drought
By Kelly Connelly
Last year’s drought dried up hay fields, sent feed prices through the roof and forced many Texas ranchers to sell off large portions of their herds. A year later, many are still trying to recover.
Winter rains helped ease the drought in the central and eastern parts of the state. But they didn’t end the state’s drought. Elgin rancher Brent Johnson says he has enough grass to feed his herds for now, “but the hay fields aren’t doing any good at all,” he said. “You’re lucky to get a 50 percent production off of them at best, and that’s probably even stretching it.”
Some think the state’s cattle industry may never recover from the drought. But Gene Hall with the Texas Farm Bureau says the cattle business is cyclical.
“You can track it over time,” Hall said. “The beef economists, the cattle economists can look at it and show you, OK, cattle numbers will build to the point where prices decline, they sell off, and then they start building again. Ranchers want to be building their herds now.”
Hall says the weather isn’t cooperating right now. But Bob Rose, a meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority, says this summer won’t be as hot as last.
“We are going to get some periods of showers coming in off the Gulf, where we could get anywhere between light to moderate rain off of each one of these little waves,” Hall said. “Last summer we didn’t see anything like that.”
Rose says the summer high pressure system that made the drought so bad last year has moved on, at least for now.