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College of Science & Engineering



The prolonged drought conditions in Texas are forcing many ranchers to evaluate their herds. Extremely high temperatures have left 83 percent of the state’s pasture and range lands in bad conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jeff Geider, director of the Institute of Ranch Management at TCU, has been focusing on the problem since long before the recent drought. He explains why water management is one of the biggest issues facing agriculture and what it means for Texas consumers.

What are ways in which ranchers can manage drought risk?
Unfortunately, drought is a sometimes unavoidable part of ranching. This being said, ranchers do have some ways to mitigate the effects of drought by developing plans in their overall management practices if lack of rain makes it necessary to do so. From developing alternative water sources to utilize as reserves to properly managing forage production and not overgrazing pastures, some management practices can be implemented to reduce the impact of drought. Ultimately, if drought becomes too severe, ranchers are left with the last option of reducing cattle numbers overall. This is obviously a last resort but one that unfortunately sometimes cannot be avoided.

How does drought affect cattle prices, and what does that mean for consumers?
Drought does have an effect on the market both short term and long term. In the short run, if cattle numbers are reduced, the market usually responds to the oversupply in a negative way. Longer term, prices usually recover due to the reduction in the cattle supply. There are other market implications that drought affects like the input costs in cattle production such as grain production and hay supplies.

Is there any type of assistance available for livestock producers affected by drought?
There are some assistance programs provided by the USDA in the form of drought insurance and reduced interest loans for financing during a drought, but producers usually have to sign up for these programs well in advance of the drought to participate.

Learn more about the TCU Institute of Ranch Management.