Texas cattle numbers have been declining for two decades, and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has scheduled a series of in-depth educational programs to begin dealing with the problem.

“The historic drought of 2011 dramatically accentuated that trend,” says Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist. “The state’s cattle industry and affiliated trade and service companies are the second-largest economic driver in the state, bringing in billions of dollars to the state economy. With the cowherd at such a critically low level, Texas will start to lose infrastructure if cow numbers do not increase soon.”

The meetings will be held across the state in April and throughout the year. Kickoff programs are scheduled for Midland, Yoakum, Alice, Graham, Abilene and Athens. For complete schedules and online registration, visit agriliferegister.tamu.edu. (Enter the keyword: beef.)

Topics include: changes in lending policies that will impact availability of capital to reinvest in cattle; balancing forage recovery with cattle inventory recovery; systematic approach to evaluating options for securing replacement females; and developing a logical and systematic system to evaluate the worth of available replacement females.

The sessions will also include discussions on such issues as herd health, biosecurity and building strategic inventory flexibility into an operation.

Another critical area of concern is generational turnover, Gill says. The ongoing drought has been so severe that many producers have decided to stay out of the cattle industry.

“Recent surveys indicate that as many as 25% of producers who have sold cattle due to drought do not intend to go back into beef production and another 10-15% indicate they may seek alternative livestock enterprises if they do go back into production. It’s important to long-term sustainability of the beef industry that we do not keep this range/pasture land out of cattle production. One special session will be devoted to the topic of how to develop a long-term relationship between landowners and land lessors.”

He believes a large number of young men and women want to go into ranching but don’t have the capital or, in some cases, the experience to start an operation.

“Developing partnerships with family members or others in the community will allow a new generation of ranchers to emerge during this recovery process,” he says. “We will address this issue and the challenges that lie ahead.”

Gill says it’s important that, as herds are rebuilt, producers take into account the value and need for environmental adaptability of cows used to rebuild the cowherd. The educational programs will address that issue.

“Research information from the past on cow longevity, retained heterosis and ongoing work on cow efficiency will be invaluable to producers as cow herds are rebuilt,” he says. “This type of information will be shared in the programs offered across the state.”

For more information, visit rebuilding.tamu.edu/.