Cat­tle in­dus­try wait­ing to as­sess storm’s im­pact

Ru­ral ranch­ers strug­gle with flooded pas­tures, stranded an­i­mals.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Shonda No­vak sno­

The rav­aging flood­wa­ters brought by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey could take a sig­nif­i­cant toll on Texas’ cat­tle in­dus­try, although it’s too soon to es­ti­mate the eco­nomic im­pact on the na­tion’s top beef-pro­duc­ing state, ex­perts say.

There are at least 1.2 mil­lion beef cows in the 54 coun­ties that have been de­clared dis­as­ter ar­eas, said David An­der­son, a pro­fes­sor and live­stock econ­o­mist at Texas A&M Univer­sity.

“While 1.2 mil­lion is about 27 per­cent of Texas’ beef cow herd, those 54 coun­ties would rank as the eighth-largest beef cow state (beef pro­duc­ing area) if on their own,” An­der­son said.

He said it’s too early to tell how many cat­tle might be lost due to Har­vey. Most of the state’s feed­lots and pack­ing plants in Texas are in the Pan­han­dle, and thus are not di­rectly af­fected by the storm, An­der­son noted.

How­ever, one ma­jor pack­ing plant, Sam Kane’s, is in Cor­pus Christi and sources cat­tle from around South and Cen­tral Texas, he said.

Jeremy Fuchs, spokesman for the Texas and South­west­ern Cat­tle Rais­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of cat­tle ranch­ers in ru­ral ar­eas, in­clud­ing out­side Cor­pus Christi and Houston, have been af­fected by flood­ing from Har­vey, which has in­un­dated pas­tures and left an­i­mals stranded.

Im­pass­able roads and con­tin­ued rain have made it dif­fi­cult for ranch­ers and re­sponse teams to safely as­sess the im­pacts to cat­tle herds, the as­so­ci­a­tion said.

“My hope is that in the com­ing days and hope­fully by end of this week, we’ll have a little bet­ter pic­ture of what they need in terms of re­lief and as­sis­tance,” Fuchs said. “We sus­pect there are go­ing to be lots of fences down, lots of cat­tle out, and lots of work to be done to re­build the in­fra­struc­ture and re­cover those an­i­mals.”

An­der­son said sig­nif­i­cant cat­tle losses will cre­ate a va­ri­ety of prob­lems for the in­dus­try.

“The short term is on the ranch­ers them­selves who have to deal with losses among their calves that they were go­ing to sell this year, or the stresses on those an­i­mals that sur­vive,” An­der­son said. “Longer term is the loss of those cows that won’t be around to have calves next year and the loss of the calves that would have be­come beef in the future . ... The fi­nan­cial ef­fects on the ranch­ers hit by the storm are huge.”

Fuchs and An­der­son said it is too soon to pre­dict the im­pact on beef prices.

“Typ­i­cally, these kinds of weather events don’t have a large ef­fect on mar­ket prices be­cause they are too small given the size of our na­tion’s to­tal mar­ket, although this one is a lot big­ger than most,” An­der­son said.

Fuchs said Har­vey isn’t the first rodeo for the state’s ranch­ers, who have weath­ered many storms, and he is op­ti­mistic about an even­tual re­turn to nor­malcy.

“Texas ranch­ers are a re­silient bunch,” Fuchs said. “There’s been a great out­pour­ing of sup­port from cat­tle rais­ers else­where in Texas and across the coun­try, and we are con­fi­dent that they will be able to re­cover and con­tinue their op­er­a­tions and con­tinue pro­vid­ing the beef that sup­plies our na­tion.”


Cat­tle are stranded in a flooded pas­ture Mon­day along High­way 71 in La Grange. Im­pass­able roads and con­tin­ued rain have ham­pered ranch­ers and re­sponse teams.

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