While recent showers were welcomed by both farmers and ranchers alike, the Brazos Valley is still a long way from having the drought broken, and if the dry weather continues, area ranchers will be forced to make some tough decisions.
Joe Brown has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.

"It interrupts our plans. We will have to react to it. There’s nothing we can do to prevent it, nothing we can do to stop it. We have to react to it."

Bobby Kurten operates a cow/calf operation in Brazos County.

"If we have to start liquidating our cattle, then that will be the first decision we make, that we have to start liquidating some numbers. The next decision you have to make is what cattle specifically do you liquidate? Do you keep your younger cattle and try to grow back into the cow/calf deal in a few years, or keep your mature cows, do you keep your open cows, do you keep your bred cows, do you keep your cows with calves on them?"

Most local ranchers’ calves are born in the winter.

"When a drought hits us in July, August, around in there, most of us have bigger calves. The decision then, the first decision is to sell the calves off of them."

Those larger calves can go to other places in the country that have grass or to feed yards.

"The baby calves coming off cows right now, I don’t know where they’d go."

And once a producer shrinks his cow herd, it takes time and money to rebuild.

"A cow herd is not one of those things you can turn on and off like a faucet. We spend years getting a set of heifers growing, get them on the ground, develop them into a cow herd, and then to have to sell out with some of them, it’s a long term project."

And owning a smaller herd impacts a beef producer’s income.

"Your income from a cow/calf operation is from the sale of those calves. You sell off your cows, you have interrupted your income for the next few years."

I’m Joe Brown, tracing the journey our food makes from the ranch to our plates, From The Ground Up.

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