Livestock Economist Says 2013 Hinges on Drought

Back home, we know a few things about drought. Living in Texas, we experienced an epic drought in 2011 and continue to feel the effects today. I’ve seen painfully dry pastures and cattle ranches that go back generations sell off the last of their herds. It’s just too expensive to feed their cattle.

Unfortunately, our neighbors to the north experienced the same last year. Feed prices reached $8 per bushel, and grass just didn’t grow. Feeding cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys was just too expensive. The drought took a toll on all of agriculture – especially livestock.

So, what can American farmers and ranchers expect in 2013? Will conditions improve? According to Dr. David Anderson, a professor and economist in Livestock and Food Products Marketing from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the answer is, “It depends.”

Dr Anderson

The fate of cattle, pork and poultry producers really depends on drought conditions across the country and resulting feed costs. If the drought subsides and feed costs come down, producers’ costs could decrease, making operations a little easier.

Demand also plays an important role. High retail prices for all meat have driven domestic demand down in the past few years. But Americans still want their steaks, chops and chicken – and they’re willing to continue buying at the grocery store.

Export markets are a promising outlet, as well. Demand for U.S. meat is strong as the global economy is improving and consumers around the world seek to improve their diets by including beef, pork and poultry.

In short, Dr. Anderson was cautiously optimistic about the outlook of meat production and sales this year. While we still are feeling the devastating effects of drought, U.S. meat and dairy products continue to be in demand and will persevere through this difficult time.

I know that in Texas, we’ll keep watching the skies and praying for rain.

amandalewishill is Amanda Hill, associate editor at Texas Farm Bureau. Amanda writes for Texas Table Top, a blog engaging in conversations about food, nutrition and farming in the Lone Star State. She also helps manage Texas Farm Bureau’s social media efforts, including FacebookTwitter, Pinterest and more. Find her on Twitter (@amandalhill).