Texas 4.1 Million Cattle Die One By One, Beef Prices

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By most estimates, Texas has over 4 million beef cattle (one estimate is as high as 11 million). Wildfires in the state have burned an area much larger than Rhode Island. The Texas Agriculture Commission says over eight out of ten of these are in the panhandle, the primary location of the fires. More and more grim reports show that the fires have killed cattle or that the areas where they live and feed have been destroyed.

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The estimates of cattle deaths are low so far, at about 4,000. That number will grow because much of the one million acres burned have not been examined. The more significant problem, in the long term, is where the cattle graze. Some herds must travel, perhaps many miles, to get to suitable areas. 

Sid Miller, commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture, told USA TODAY, “A lot of these people are going to have to sell. “They have no grass, no infrastructure, no fences, no cattle. They’ll sell and wait for better days. … It’ll take a couple of years to get things back in shape.”

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If a large amount of land use for cattle has been destroyed, the next issue will be beef prices. The jury is still out on the wildfire effects. Agrelife reports David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist in the Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics, said, “I’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether this fire would impact cattle prices and consumers, but the short answer is, no. I think some people were under the impression there could be a significant percentage of the Texas herd lost, but that is not the case. It’s devastating if your ranch and your herd is in the disaster area, but it won’t really impact cattle or beef prices because of the numbers and scale of the entire market.”

Anderson’s observation may be good for beef prices, but it does not lessen the brutal local effects of the disaster.

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