Texas Drought Recovery Is Mixed Bag

Some wheat fields were up to a good stand in October but ranchers are cautious on rebuilding cattle herds even after some rains.

Published on: Oct 30, 2012

A lot of Texas had some good rainfall, especially in late September, and some in October.

This has brought a lot of winter wheat fields up to a good stand, and with some October sunshine, the growth has been rapid in these grain fields.

East Texas has reported some good cotton yields, while out west on the High Plains, an Oct. 8 freeze hurt some cotton in the Lubbock region, but some—depending on the growth stage—was not damaged by the second-earliest freeze on record.

Meanwhile, Texas ranchers have been hesitant—despite some good fall rainfall—to go full-steam in rebuilding cattle herds after two treacherous years of drought. They appreciate the rain, which has varied greatly from one area to another, but are cautious about rebuilding herds and whether to hold on to forage stocks. But certainly the overall situation out on the range is better than a year ago.

Texas Drought Recovery Is Mixed Back
Texas Drought Recovery Is Mixed Back

"There is more optimism, but at the same time, they're very cautious right now because they're still trying to allow pastures to recover and make sure they have some forage reserves for the next drought," says Jason Cleere, Texas AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, College Station.

According to the Oct. 9 U.S. Drought Monitor, 97% of the state was suffering from extreme drought a year ago in October, compared with 16% still suffering from extreme drought this October in Texas.

But before the fall rains came, the combination of the historic 2011 Texas drought and the lingering 2012 drought had already done tremendous damage. The drought that persisted for so much of 2012 was disastrous to many Texas beef producers. Ranchers dealt with a lack of grazing and also short supplies of hay, which resulted in heavy culling of cows, and in some cases, complete herd dispersals.

Some hay supplies were being rebuilt this fall, and some pastures and range land were showing some improvement, Cleere reports.

A lot of Texas cattle went north last year to locations where they could last through the drought.

Cleere says he has talked to some ranchers now that are looking to buy back some of those cattle and bring them back to Texas.