Cattle drive to states with good grass and abundant clean water—including NY

Two weeks ago I got an email from a farmer who had just shipped a herd of 40 cattle from Texas to his farm in Wisconsin. The cattle had been sold due to scarcity of grass on Texas range land caused by drought. He wanted to talk about converting them to a grass fed herd.

It turns out that this story is really part of a trend—-the shrinkage of the southwest’s beef herd, and a movement of beef cattle to places with good grass, and abundant clean water. New York is one of those places where the beef herd is growing. This is creating a grassland based economic opportunity for NY’s farming communities.

From Business Week
Texas, the top state producer, had its driest year on record in 2011, according to the National Weather Service. The drought destroyed pastures, forcing ranchers to sell or slaughter animals rather than incur feed costs driven up by corn, the main ingredient, which reached an all-time high in 2011.

From AgriLife Today Jan 27, 2012 — a big ‘cattle drive’ from Texas to other states and the shrinkage of the Texas beef herd to a 50 year low.
Dr. David Anderson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service livestock economist, said out shipment of beef breeding cows in 2011 was more than three times the amount of 2010 due to historic drought conditions. “Out shipments are cattle moving out of state from Texas and they might also be called Texas’ cattle exports to other states,” he said. “Reported out shipments rose dramatically above 2010 in August-October. Total cattle reported shipped out of state in 2011 was 1.113 million head, 287,000 more than in 2010.”

Meanwhile, the USDA reports that NY beef farmers have increased their herds over 10% in 2011, bucking the national trend. Good grasslands and abundant clean water have created an economic opportunity for NY’s rural communities.
Beef cows totaled 100,000 head, up 11 percent from a year ago. Beef cow replacement heifers totaled 38,000 head, unchanged from a year earlier. Other heifers and steers weighing 500 pounds or more, which are normally on feed for slaughter, were up 19 percent to 82,000 head. Bulls weighing 500 pounds or more were down 17 percent at 15,000 head. The 2011 New York calf crop totaled 530,000 head, up 2 percent from 2010.

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