Some have gotten more rainfall in 2012 than others—maybe much more—and others remain pretty dry compared with neighbors. But overall, Texas is in far better shape this time in 2012 than a year ago during the horrific drought of 2011.
Cattle represent Texas No. 1 agricultural commodity, and cotton is—by far—the top cash crop in the state. And both cattle raisers and cotton producers were looking to rebound this year.
But that's going to be especially slow for cattlemen.
Ron Gill, Texas AgriLife Extension livestock specialist and associate department head for animal science at Texas A&M University, College Station, points out that even before the record stretch of drought and merciless heat, there already had been a steady decline in cattle numbers in Texas. The 2011 drought just accentuated that trend to a much greater degree.
Gill says recent surveys indicate that as much as 25% of producers who have sold their cattle due to drought do not intend to go back into beef production. Another 10% to 15% indicate they may seek other livestock enterprises if they do go back into animal production.
The livestock specialist notes there is not going to be an overnight fix.
"This will have long-term implications on the future of the Texas beef cattle industry," Gill assures. "The cattle industry brings in billions of dollars to the state economy, but with the cowherd at such a critically low level, Texas will start to lose infrastructure if cow numbers do not increase soon."