America’s cattle herd has shrunk to the lowest level in sixty years, and the record drought in Texas and Oklahoma is to blame.
The USDA’s new six-month cattle inventory report, released Friday, shows that America now has 90.8 million cows, down two percent from January 2011. Texas saw the largest decline in the number of beef cows in its history, according to the Houston Chronicle‘s William Pack.
“It’s not easy to haul feed, but it’s just about impossible to haul water,” said John Anderson, a senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
This drop will cause beef prices, which climbed thirteen percent last year, to jump another five to ten percent in 2012, according to Steve Amosson of the Texas AgriLife Extension.
Prices won’t come down for three years, until ranchers and feed lots build their herds back up. “That’s the amount of time from birth to burger it would take for a heifer to grow, go through a pregnancy and for its newborn to leave the feedlot,” wrote Kevin Welch of the Amarillo Globe-News.
“A lot of people our age are just quitting because feed is so high and labor is so hard to get,” Sanderson rancher Thomas Hinds told the Texas Tribune‘s Kate Galbraith last July.