Livestock producers with little to no pasture or hay should just sell out, advises Larry Redmon, Texas AgriLife Extension Service state forage specialist.
"It would be much less expensive to just get out and come back later," Redmon says. "That’s the message that we’re trying to convey."
Many livestock producers have already tried to cut feeding costs by extensively culling herds, but have held onto enough cows to rebuild if the drought passes, he says. In some dry years, that might be a good strategy, but not this one, Redmon says.
"It's unprecedented. (We've had) the 12 driest months in Texas history, and there's just not many ways to combat that."
Grazing and hay supplies are next to non-existent in many areas of the state. On average, it costs producers "somewhere around a $100 a month to have these animals (cows) stay in the pasture and feed them," he says.
Another choice is to move cattle elsewhere, most likely another state during the drought, and lease land where there is grazing, Redmon suggests.
"It could be western Mississippi, it could be eastern Louisiana, or it could be maybe Missouri. In the past couple of years, people have called me from other states and they’ve quoted prices of $20-$22 per (cow-calf) pair per month. Even assuming that’s $25 or $30, that’s still a far, far cry from $100 a month."
Even the cost of hauling a trailer load of cattle to the leased grazing is still cheaper than trying to buy hay and feed at today's prices, he says.
"It's probably going to be $3-3.50 a loaded mile – something like that. If you just put all that together … the savings could still be tremendous if a person could find a place to put those animals."
But completely selling out makes more sense yet, Redmon says, given there's no guarantee this drought will end anytime soon.
"Some people would counter and say it'll cost more to come back into the business later because conditions will have improved and more people will be getting back in. That’s true. But again, looking at the difference in what it would cost to buy cows and come back in at some later date – vs. what they would spend trying to go through this drought – mathematically, it's just a no-brainer."
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force Web site.