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Cattle industry experiences hurdles, remains resilient


Nov. 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.

A dry 2011 meant challenges for many Texas ranchers, as many minimized herd sizes and some sold them off completely. Those in the business, however, say agriculturists are resilient and they will make it through the drought.

A parched 2011 meant hurdles for many agriculturists, from lower crop yields for farmers to wildfire worries for landowners and more.

The cattle industry was not immune.

Ranchers say the industry faced obstacles but, with a bit of resilience, will pull through.

Darin Burns works with Z Tags, a company that provides livestock ear tags, in Seguin. Decreased herd numbers have impacted his business, he said, but the ranching industry will always remain.

The key is to stick around until the situation betters.

"Mother Nature provides this vicious cycle, but we're used to it," he said. "Even though there is less cattle, there are still going to be ranchers."

Steven Page, with Monty's Plant Food Co. in the Groveton area, said he helped his father haul off the rest of their cattle just last week. While that aspect of the industry might be a bit tough, he said now is a good time to make contacts and better prepare for the future.

A majority of ranchers downsized their operations when the drought took hold, said Bill Hyman, executive director of the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas. Some sold out completely, he added, but not many.

Statewide, Texas' cattle population is about 50 to 60 percent what it was in the early '90s, he said, attributing the decrease not only to the drought, but also to issues such as urbanization, aging ranchers and rising fuel and fertilizer costs.

"It used to be you'd drive 45 miles to check on the cattle several times a week," he said. "But, with diesel at $4, it's expensive."

Circumstances aren't always easy, he said, but ranchers are optimistic people.

"It's not a one-year business," he said. "It's a lifetime business. And then it's the kids' and grandkids' business."

Mike McCravey, industry relations manager with the Texas Beef Council, said there was a silver lining to the obstacles ranchers faced.

Beef prices remained high, largely because of both local demand and a dramatically increased demand abroad.

"We feel that ... in spite of the drought and hard times, we're faring pretty well," McCravey said.

Although he said he hoped to see rain in the near future, he said agriculturists are resilient and will make it through the dry patch.

"It's not the highest-paying job, but it's great to make a difference," he said. "We're feeding the world."



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