Texas drought loss estimates are at $1.2 billion and counting. They’re expected to escalate higher as livestock producers continue to sell off herds and crop conditions deteriorate this year, according to economists with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

“Each day without rainfall is one in which crop and livestock losses mount,” says David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock economist. “Even with the severity of the current drought, estimation of economic losses is difficult given that we are still early in the growing season.”

The $1.2 billion figure estimates livestock losses from November 2010 through May of this year. It includes increased feeding costs and lost value of wheat pasture grazing, Anderson says.

“Texas is the largest beef-cow-producing state in the U.S., with more than 5 million head. More than 90% of the state’s beef cows are located in counties categorized as being in severe to exceptional drought.”

The ongoing drought has forced ranchers to start feeding hay earlier in the season and to increase the amount fed due to lack of pasture growth.

“This increased feeding cost over normal levels is a direct economic impact on the livestock producers,” he says. “The sudden severe onset of the drought has forced livestock producers to purchase even more hay, driving up prices sharply.”

The drought has been so severe that many stock tanks providing water for livestock have become “dangerously low or dry. This requires even higher costs to haul water daily to meet livestock needs,” he says. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 100% of the state has at least abnormally dry conditions and 82% has been classified in extreme and exceptional drought.