U.S. Water News Online
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Without relief from drought conditions
soon, some Texas livestock producers believe a huge selloff could
occur this year.
While most livestock producers made some adjustments last fall
when there was not enough rain, continued dry conditions could lead
to some hard decisions for some growers in late spring.
``The next critical time is if we don't get mid-spring rain,''
said Pierce Miller, a fourth-generation livestock producer in
Crockett County in southwest Texas. ``Most of the ranchers will have
to make a very critical decision if this remains up to June 1. We
could see a dramatic sellout in livestock numbers.''
Cattle rancher Jim Link, who is also head of the range management
program at Texas Christian University, said the liquidation of cattle
started last year. He said some ranchers will be forced to continue
decreasing their herds without some rain soon.
``My concern is we don't see any relief in sight,'' Link said.
```Last year, we took a little bending. If it continues, it will
break some people bad.''
Texas is in the midst of its third drought in four years. Of the
state's 254 counties, 75 already have received drought disaster
declarations from the U.S. agriculture secretary and 13 more await
Rainfall last year was below normal averages statewide. As a
result, agriculture officials said 71 percent of the state's ranges
and pastures are in poor to very poor condition, while 91 percent of
the state's winter wheat crop is fair to very poor.
Miller, chairman of the National Sheep Industry, and Link both
agree that lower feed prices as the result of a bumper corn crop have
helped livestock producers whose grazing areas have been devastated
by the lack of rain.
``If it were not for the relatively inexpensive protein price,
there would be an even greater reduction in goat and sheep,'' said
Miller, without giving exact numbers.
Without supplemental feed, Miller said, livestock would literally
die in the pasture.
``The only saving grace is cheap grain prices. When we run out of
grass, we can still send our cattle to a feed yard,'' Link said.
```We have cut back on numbers by sending cattle to the feed yard
earlier than usual.''
Link said he has not reduced the number of cattle he owns, but has
only half the number he normally would in the Fort Worth area. He
sent many of his cattle to east Texas.
``I just changed my operation. In this business, you have got to
be flexible,'' he said. ``The trouble is that it takes a while to get
into a drought, and then it takes us a while to get out of a
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