Drought-related cattle deaths reported in South Texas
Hot, dry weather continued for most of Texas, with South Texas still the hottest and driest, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
It has been so hot and dry that ranchers are losing cattle, said Sammy Gavito, AgriLife Extension agent for Duval County, west of Corpus Christi.
"There's some cattle dying," Gavito said. "It's not dead cattle all over the place. They're not lying everywhere. But every rancher I've talked to has had at least a cow or two die out in his pasture, and that's even when he's trying to feed."
Even small percentages of death loss represent more hardship for ranchers in Duval and neighboring counties, where agriculture is largely based on beef production.
Gavito estimated that most of the ranchers he talked to had lost from 3 percent to 5 percent of their herds. He attributed the losses directly to drought conditions.
"We've had 2 inches of rain in a year's time," he said. "We're about 22 to 23 inches below normal for the year. There isn't enough for them to eat, and it's very hot. We've had almost 50 days in row of almost 100 degrees. That's a record for us down here."
Gavito said many of his ranchers who waited too long to liquidate their herds are in tough position.
"There's a fine line there," he said. "Where you've waited too long and now they're too thin, and you're not going to get anything for them."
Some of the ranchers in his county sold off herds early. Others are now to the point where they're trying to sell off even though their cattle won't bring much at the sale barn, Gavito said.
"The ranchers have fed and fed and fed, and now they're fed up," he said.
But Gativo said he believed conditions will turn around soon.
"We feel that the drought just has to break. It's just been too long," he said. "The predictions are that we're going to turn this thing around come September."
Soil moisture levels are high in the Panhandle, short to adequate in North and East Texas, but were dropping elsewhere.