Thursday, February 07, 2013

Cattle ranching moves north, west amid drought

The severe drought that scorched pastures across the Southern Plains last summer helped shrink the nation's herd to its smallest size in more than six decades and encouraged the movement of animals to lusher fields in the northern and western parts of the U.S., a new report shows. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that the U.S. inventory of cattle and calves totaled 89.3 million animals as of Jan. 1. That was down by 1.5 million cattle, or 2 percent, compared with this time a year ago. The agency says this is the lowest January cattle inventory since 1952. It does two counts per year, in January and July. The January report had been anxiously awaited because it shows the impact of the drought as it spread across the nation last summer and provides a state-by-state breakdown documenting the shift of animals north. Texas, the nation's largest cattle producing state, saw its herd shrink 5 percent to 11.3 million head amid a multi-year drought. Nebraska's herd shrunk 2 percent to 6.3 million animals as the drought spread north this summer. In Kansas, another hard hit state, the number of cattle shrunk 4 percent to 5.8 million animals as ranchers sold off animals as pastures dried up and the price of hay skyrocketed. By contrast, North Dakota ranchers expanded their herds by 6 percent to nearly 1.8 million head, while South Dakota's cattle numbers grew 5 percent to 3.8 million head. Montana, Idaho and Washington also boosted the size of their herds.  In New Mexico, cattle numbers are down for the third straight year and the number of ranchers looking to sell off their herds and get out of the business continues to grow. The overall herd is down to 1.3 million animals, the fewest since 1991. "It's trite, but it is the perfect storm," said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association. "We have no rain, there's no feed readily available, what is available costs too much and the cost of transportation has increased. We're just in a bad place."...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When the cattle come back and the sheep are driven back into their ranges they will be met by the new pack of grey wolves turned loose by the evil empire USFWL Service. Won't that be just great? The Service has deemed that this is the best thing for the SW and if we don't like it we can lump it. They once had a Final Plan but chunked it in the wastebasket when it didn't met their expectations. Now they have increased the release area by tens of thousands of acres, affecting more and more livestock producers, wildlife and the culture and practices of the SW area for generations to come. Maybe!