Cattle Losses May Be Thousands
HOUSTON – Texas
agricultural officials fear thousands of cattle may have died in the aftermath
of Harvey, resulting in losses to ranchers of tens of millions of dollars.
The counties that
sustained damage when Harvey first came ashore Aug. 25 were home to 1.2
million head of cattle, representing 1-in-4 of all beef cows in Texas,
the nation's largest producer.
Sales of beef cattle
and calves in the state averaged $10.7 billion annually between 2011 and
2014, according to the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service and Agri-Life
Most ranchers don't
insure their herds because of the cost, so a rancher could be out hundreds
of thousands of dollars if an entire herd drowned, the Houston Chronicle
reported . The Oklahoma National Stockyards, branded as one of the world's
largest stocker and feeder cattle markets, sold beef cows for an average
of $1,500 in May.
Officials are still
in the process of tallying the damages.
"We're finding cattle
in waist-deep water," said Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture commissioner.
"But when we try to drive them to dry ground, many of them just collapse
they're so exhausted."
Cattle standing in
water will have weakened skin and hooves that are susceptible to infection,
said Dr. Dan Posey, a veterinarian and clinical professor at Texas A&M.
Prolonged standing, lack of food and lack of drinkable water could make
the cattle susceptible to respiratory disease, he said.
"Not all of them
will recover even though they were rescued," Posey said.
Texas A&M economists
estimated that Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused about $13.3 million in cattle
losses, with an additional $23.3 million in damages to fences, hay and
other farm equipment.
Harvey may be more
costly because it affected a larger area, said David Anderson, an A&M
professor and agriculture economist.
said he doesn't expect the losses to affect meat prices, because the number
of cattle lost in Harvey won't be enough to impact the national beef market,
which is expected to yield a record amount next year.