Now here’s something I bet you didn’t know. 2011 was one of the worse years ever for the cattle industry. Especially here in Central Texas, there are a lot of ranchers and livestock operations that have had to either drastically reduce operations or cease them all together. Now there are some producers around the county who did OK. In fact, I bet that some even made money, but if you were one of the producers in Texas or Oklahoma the odds are that 2011 wasn’t the best year you ever had.
Combine the overall lousy state of the economy, a drought that has ensnared a significant portion of the cattle belt, and the reduction in the amount of feed available; no rain = no hay and corn growers who are turning a significant portion of their crops into ethanol (now that was one of the dumbest ideas Washington has ever had, a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences), it’s no wonder that the cattle population of 91 million head is the lowest its been since 1952. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon.
When I visit with ranchers about what the situation and we talk about what’s going on, I’m often told that if there’s no significant rain by April to fill the stock tanks they’re going to have to cull their herds even further. Because they just can’t afford to truck in water, pay higher and higher prices for hay.
There’s very little, if any, margin of error left for you when you’re running a livestock operation. It’s becoming more and more important that we keep better records about our cattle and better control over our expenses. Those animals in our pastures aren’t pets, they are our biggest assets and our most costly liabilities.