From the Ground Up - Rebuilding the Cow Herd

The 2011 drought produced an unprecedented sell-off of cattle that severely reduced the size of the U.S. cow herd. It appears, at least in our part of the state, the rebuilding process is beginning to take place. Bobby Kurten is a Brazos County rancher.

“When we look at restocking, there are a couple of things that I keep in mind. One is the grass, whether we have the ability to carry the cattle that we restock, the other is the market. The market has been real good, but the grass coming back, and the grass being like it is, has really taken that part out of it. It makes it a whole lot easier to restock when we’ve got grass than when it’s still kind of struggling and we’re not sure we’re going to have it.”

Kurten believes local ranchers are beginning to rebuild their herds.

“I have been saving back some heifers the last couple of years, and I think most of us in this area are going to. Our numbers are the lowest they’ve been since the 1950s. On the other side of it, the market is reflecting that. We’ve got a real good market for our calves.”

Genetics like milking ability, calving ease, fertility, and disposition are important to most ranchers.

“If you have genetics in your cow herd that you want in your cow herd, then you keep your heifers. If you go out and buy heifers, if you buy them through a sale barn, just one here and one there, you get genetics that are like that. You don’t get necessarily similar genetics in your heifer herd. If you buy from a particular breeder, then you get that genetics that he has.”

Rebuilding a cow herd is a slow process.

“We’re trying to build our numbers back up. We’ve built up some over the last couple of years. We’re doing it through, we’ve bought some heifers, and we have retained some of our own, and that’s kind of the way we’re looking at it. We sold about half of our cows, due to the drought. We’re back probably three quarters of the way back to where we were.”