Texas beef cattle herds down 32% over last few years

Drought means declining cattle herds

ABILENE, Texas - The number one commodity in the Big Country is in trouble.

Texas beef cattle have gone down 32% over the last few years because of drought. That brings inventory numbers all the way back to 1959 levels. 

"You can't grow grass without rain," cattle rancher Tommy Milliorn said.

Beef cattle ranchers in the Big Country are having trouble affording hay for their herds because the price has almost doubled during the drought.

"That's caused a sharp decrease in the number of cattle that we've had in the country cause of liquidation of herds," Robert Pritz of Taylor County AgriLife Extension said. 

The majority of cattle herds were sold off over the last few years.

"We just got through selling two truck loads last week," Milliorn said.

Taylor County AgriLife Extension said most cattle ranchers are down to their last core herd and they are doing what they can to maintain the number of cattle they have left. Many ranchers who can afford to buy new cattle are afraid to because the future is still uncertain.

"It's very difficult for producers to take that risk to get back in the business right now until we're for sure out of this drought situation," Pritz said.

Lower cattle numbers could eventually also mean higher beef prices at the supermarket.

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