Saturday, December 31, 2011

Texas Cattle Collapse

We had some recent posts on both current and pre-historic Southwest collapses caused by drought.  I had picked up an earlier piece on the effect on cattle ranching and had not posted on it yet.  So I double checked and found a more recent piece: oddly enough from Raleigh, NC’s News & Observer (One of the Original McClatchy papers).
HOUSTON -- Blame the long-running drought in Texas for the largest single-year decline in the state's cow herd, which experts say is likely to drive up beef prices. Since January, the number of cows in Texas is expected to have decreased by about 600,000 - a 12 percent drop from about 5 million cows. That's according to David Anderson, a livestock economist in College Station who monitors beef markets for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. The trend is likely the largest drop in the number of cows any state has ever seen, Anderson said. Texas only had a larger percentage decline during the Great Depression.
This is the earlier story I had seen and never quite got around to posting on.
Sheila McNulty, Financial Times, 2 October 2011 (ht: NC)

Many of the cattle at the weekly auction in Columbus, Texas, were so weakened by the state’s year-long record drought that Tanya Reeves decided against buying.
“Even the younger ones look so thin their bones are showing,” Mrs Reeves said, watching the steady parade of cattle with her two-year-old son, Ian.
Auctions across the state are being inundated with similar animals as ranchers are forced to sell amid a drought that has left them with insufficient grass, hay and water.
While drought has also affected Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Georgia and Louisiana, Texas is its biggest victim – with more than $5.2bn in agricultural losses and heavy blows to its cattle industry – the nation’s largest, which provides 16 per cent of the country’s beef cows.
Cows selling for 50 cents a pound would have sold for 80 cents two weeks ago. That adds up to a significant loss on a 2,000lb cow….
 “What am I going to live off if the cows are all gone?’’ Mr Krebs said. “I’m 53 years old. Where am I going to get a job when I’ve done this all my life?’’
So you have a series weather event that may have some extremely long term consequences.  I will say that at least some of the national press is not ignoring the problem, but it hardly gets top billing either.

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