My wife and I attended the 59th annual summer Beef Cattle Short Course at TAMU, presented by Texas Ag Extension. Two and a half days of morning and afternoon courses on everything cattle. We split up duties, to gain as much exposure as possible: A Day In the Life of a Cow, Forage, Nutrition, Disease, Cattle and Retirement, The Beef Carcass, Beef Fabrication. Plus an afternoon of general assembly talks on the Beef Industry in Texas, Rural Life, and Five Year Weather in Beef Raising Regions. The conference had 1400 attendees, most from Texas. We learned a great deal of academic and practical knowledge from the courses. We learned much from conversations with fellow beef cattle farmers.
We came away from the conference also confirmed generally in our beef cattle strategy, and in our good fortune in raising beef cattle in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The Lower Great Plains, including Texas, remain in drought, or more accurately, have not had the rain as they hoped. The Upper Great Plains, the Midwest, and the Southeast, including West Virginia as the upper-most state in the latter region, are having a very wet spring and summer, with the drought abating, acquifers and reservoirs replenishing. The five year climate cycle prognosis is very good for the Southeast, and experts expect the beef cattle industry to expand there.
The Texas beef cattle industry - a commody industry - was and continues in a world of hurt. The drought has little abated. The Texas cattle herd has lost nearly 1 million head and is not expected to expand, might even continue to contract. That's 17% of US beef production in trouble. One economist put it starkly. The Texas beef cattle industry is based on $2.50 corn; that business model is no longer profitable or viable. The industry must shift to producing leaner beef that relies less on corn finish and longer grass feeding. This is our strategy - grass fed, grass finished - and we are blessed with lots of rain, plenty of green grass, plenty of hay; whereas, Texas, sad to say, is not and looks not to be for years.
An illuminating, helpful set of courses.