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Texas Drought Tough On Everyone and Everything

October 10, 2011

By David Ball, The Orange (Texas) Leader

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ORANGE -- Steak lovers may have to pay extra in the near future for that juicy ribeye or T-bone.

Many owners are selling-off as many cows as they can to beat the drought before it beats them.

Dan Harris Jr., manager of the Farmer`s Mercantile in Orange, is a little more fortunate than some of his fellow cattle owners in regard to the ongoing drought.

"We have 500 heads," he said. "It has affected us some in the way we manage our cattle. We culled some last fall, so our pastures are not as affected as others."

In fact, Harris has been baling hay on his property and sending it off. He sold 3,000 bales this year alone, though hay production isn`t where it should be because of dry conditions.

"We had to cut back by two-thirds. We were lucky with the little rain we got; and it`s grass; not hay," Harris said.

Early in the year, Harris thought there would be enough moisture and the state would not have to deal with a drought. He said ranchers just couldn`t tell in March there wasn`t adequate moisture.

"We had a great outlook. We even sold some cattle in South Texas this year. You just can`t predict. It`s hard to manage a drought," he said.

Other ranchers he comes in contact with tell him things aren`t going so well in the cattle business.

He said after they sold their other cattle, some owners are down to their younger seed stock and they can`t afford to feed them because there is no grass to be found.

Another side effect to be expected is higher prices for beef as cattle herds grow scarcer.

"Next year, if we get the rain and ranchers try to replace the cows, there may be sticker shock (when they`re sold to market). They will be extremely high," Harris said. "There could be a big spike in beef prices. Feed is extremely high. Hay now costs twice as much to produce."

(c)2011 The Orange Leader (Orange, Texas)

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Story image: Receding water lines at Lake Meredith National Recreation area uncovers dead trees that now line the shores near Fritch, Texas. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez.

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