Only about half of the 2005 hay crop could be harvested in Texas because of the drought in the eastern half of that state. And that could cause losses of up to $1 billion by next spring for the industry, estimates Carl Anderson, professor emeritus with Texas Cooperative Extension, and David Anderson, extension ag economist-livestock.

The lack of rainfall kept many Texas farmers from harvesting second and third cuttings of hay. That is forcing supplemental hay and protein feeding to livestock – possibly for an extra three to five months.

Other reasons for the livestock losses, the extension expert say, are:

  • Fewer stocker calves in Central Texas, the Rolling Plains and the Panhandle – again due to a lack of moisture. Stocker calves will be shipped straight to the feedlot at lighter weights.
  • Lower market prices for calves this fall.

Ranchers began selling lighter calves and taking lower prices this fall because they didn’t have enough grazing for the winter, Carl Anderson says.

Ranchers – especially those in the eastern two-thirds of the state – have been hurt by the lack of forage since spring, he adds. “We’re at the point now that, even if it does rain, with the short daylight hours and cool temperatures there will be little winter growth of grass and wheat for grazing until spring.”

On the other hand, some parts of Far West Texas had record early spring rains and good summer and fall rains, says Bruce Carpenter, extension livestock specialist in Fort Stockton. "We've been dry since October, but we have good standing forage going into the winter," Carpenter says.