Extension Agent: 2011 not very good year because of drought

There have also only been five monthly totals where it did not rain at least one-tenth of an inch in a month in that same data set. Three of the totals were last year, and of those they occurred between the months of March and July. This, by the way, is where 70 percent of the forage growth that is necessary for the grazing season occurs, or what might be termed as a recipe for disaster.

AgriLife Extension Economist, Dr. David Anderson, has estimated 12 percent of the state's beef cattle inventories have been liquidated. The Texas Ag Statistics won't release their estimates on county beef inventories until later this year, but the Goliad Crops Committee has estimated that at least one-third of our 37,000 head have been liquidated. If our estimates are correct, this liquidation will surpass that of the 1996 drought where we saw an 18 percent drop in our beef cattle inventories.

At that time, livestock numbers did not recover until 1998. With high commodity prices, it is going to be difficult for producers to obtain stocking rates that they managed in 2010, even though their properties might offer the carrying capacity once the landscape recovers from this record-setting drought. Incidentally, Goliad County has yet to achieve the stocking rates it saw in the late '80s and mid-'90s, when you could see 55,000 and 65,000 head grazing at any particular time.

The only saving grace is the high price of cattle that both live and feeder cattle are receiving on the Chicago Board of Trade. In terms of the market of the mid-'90s and that of today, they are at polar opposites. Although the drought did lower calf weights, coupled with producers experiencing sharp discounts on lighter calves, in general the market for the year averaged around $1.30. As of last week with slower trading because of the holidays, the market was at $1.47, about $0.90 per pound better than in 1996.

As for the rest of the commodities in the county, they were almost entirely droughted out. The Crops Committee estimated that corn yields averaged only 30 bushels per acre, though sorghum was better, but only 2,200 pounds per acre. The cotton that was harvested was estimated to have yields of three-fourths of a bale per acre. Only 75 percent of forages was harvested. That means winter stock piles are dwindling, if not already depleted, which means further liquidation; a pretty bad year indeed.

Brian Yanta is the Goliad County Extension agent.