The scorching heat and unrelenting drought are forcing members of the largest livestock association in Texas to reduce their herds by almost 40 percent, but it hasn't shaken their confidence in the future of the industry.


The survey by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association shows 84 percent of the almost 900 ranchers who responded had culled their herds because of the drought, with the average herd size falling by 38 percent.

In addition, about 8 percent of the respondents expect to liquidate their entire herd by next year.  None of the respondents said they planned to leave the cattle business for good, however.

Dennis Hale, Wilson County's agrilife extension agent, says these culling estimates understate how bad things are. The reality is even worse because the estimates were calculated on a herd count that already was reduced by a drought in 2009.

Even so, most ranchers are optimistic. One rancher near Wichita Falls says "Rain will come and when it does, you can bet ranchers will rebuild their herds, and the industry will come back stronger than ever.  It's sure not down and out."

This survey shows how deeply the drought has affected agriculture in the nation's second-largest agricultural state.  Texas had more than $21 billion in agricultural production in the most recent agricultural census in 2007, second only to California.

Here's a link to the survey: