News / USA

Record Drought Takes Toll on Texas Cattle

Greg Flakus

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the United States' cattle herd has shrunk to its smallest size in 60 years, mostly because of a severe drought that has ravaged the southern plains.  Beef prices have gone up 17 percent as a result.  In the pastures near Hallsburg,Texas, ranchers are hanging on desperately, hoping for rain.

Rancher Marc Scott once ran three times this many cows on his pastures, but when he saw drought coming last year, he began to sell them off.

"Probably between 60 and 70 percent of my herd is what I sold off," said Scott.  "I actually started a year and a half ago.  The conditions were getting drier and drier."

Scott says the main problem is the lack of grass and the expense of feed that he had to bring in from elsewhere.

"With the herd I had before there was no way I could afford to feed them all through the winter," added Scott.  "Now I have compacted my size and moved some off and now I can, hopefully, get through this with what I have left."

By "moving off some" Scott means he shipped some cows north to land he leases in states that were not affected by drought.  Now he faces the expense of bringing those cattle back when things get better.

There have been some good, all-day rains here in central Texas lately, and they have replenished stock ponds and restored moisture to the soil so it can produce grass.  Scott says this gives him hope.

"These rains we are receiving now, if we can receive those for another two or three months at least, then if it does get droughty during the summer, that will help carry us through," Scott added.

At Texas A and M University, livestock economist David Anderson keeps track of the state's overall herd and the sobering results of last year's record drought.

"We had the biggest one-year decline in beef cow numbers here in Texas as far back as the data goes, which goes back to 1920," said Anderson.

Anderson says some ranchers may see hard times if it does not rain a lot through the winter months.  He says converting pasture land to some other crop, like corn or wheat, is not an option in most cases.

"A large portion of our state is extensive pasture and rangeland that is just not suitable for other crops," Anderson added.

Anderson says Texas ranchers can only hope for rain and hang on until conditions improve.

But even for ranchers who may have the financial means to get through this drought period, it will take many years and a lot of work to rebuild the herds.

Marc Scott spends time maintaining fences and worrying about the dry summer that many climate experts are predicting for this year.

"It will drive a lot more people out [of this business]," Scott noted.  "You cannot continue to buy that feed for the cattle and come out at the end of it.  You cannot do it.  You have to be able to grow it"

Last year saw a 20-percent increase in U.S. beef exports.  Ranchers like Marc Scott would like to sell more cattle to foreign consumers, if they can get through this crisis with cattle to sell.

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs