Expert: Producers young and old plan accordingly for drought

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COLLEGE STATION – Texas beef cattle producers should plan for future periods of dry conditions as drought patterns exhibited in the 1950s continue to prevail in current models, according to an expert.

“We are still reliving the 1950s drought-producing pattern with periodic breaks,” Brian Bledsoe, a weather forecaster who is featured monthly in Southern Livestock Standard, recently told 1,400 attendees at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course in College Station.

Bledsoe said when he speaks to young farmers and ranchers who are thinking about taking over operations from their fathers, he says, “have a drought plan…because we are going to have more dry years than wet years.”

Bledsoe said computer models forecasted for the next 90 days are going to be “pretty status quo.”

“At least through August, with the exception of tropical storm activity, the prospects of seeing significant rain in Texas aren’t looking great.”

Looking ahead, Bledsoe said come spring of next year, March through May, could “potentially be wet months.”

He said for now, it will be a drier and warmer-than-normal fall going into early winter, with potential for a possible El Nino trend in early 2014. However, Bledsoe said, “remember, we are still reliving the 1950s drought-producing pattern with periodic breaks.”

The opening general session titled “Ranching Into the Future” featured presentations on weather, cattle market outlook and other industry issues.

Don Close, vice president for food and agriculture research with Rabobank, discussed the outlook for beef demand and trends in protein consumption across the U.S.

He said thinking beyond the traditional mindset of beef consumption, eating habits are changing, especially as cultural diversification among the U.S. population continues. He cited Houston as the most diversified city in the U.S. per ethnic groups and how protein consumption differs compared to decades ago.

He said the beef industry has a great story.

“Go tell it,” he said. “Beef production does not end at the ranch gate. Consumer interest in food and where it comes from is only going to increase. Nobody in the world can tell your story better than you can. Tell the story, please.”

The short course, which continues through Wednesday, features more than 60 speakers from Texas and the U.S. It is coordinated by experts with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M University department of animal science.

“We all know there have been some challenges and one of those challenges is from a rainfall perspective for the past 5 years,” said Dr. Jason Cleere, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist and short course coordinator, during the opening of the general session.

Dr. Doug Steele, AgriLife Extension director, told the attendees, “Beef cattle are so important to our state. We have a vested interest in your success. That’s why we continue to have the short course each year and give you the opportunity to come. I encourage you over the next couple of days to think about the future: where you are going with your practice, where the industry is going. We take our role in extending the great research in labs and in the field into the classroom and put that in (in a form of) education and outreach that is understandable to you.”

This year’s short course was dedicated to Dr. Randall Grooms, who retired in 1996 as professor and AgriLife Extension livestock specialist emeritus at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Overton. Grooms was recognized at the short course prime rib dinner.

The beef short course event showcases the latest research and educational programs offered by AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the department of animal science at Texas A&M. The annual event is one of the largest beef-education workshops in the country, and has become one of the largest and most comprehensive beef cattle educational programs in the U.S., according to organizers.

The cattleman’s college portion provides participants with an opportunity to choose workshops based on their level of production experience and the needs of their ranch, Cleere said. This week’s sessions feature information on introductory cattle production, retiring to ranching, management practices in the areas of forage, nutrition and reproduction, record keeping, genetics, purebred cattle, landowner issues and much more, he said.

In addition to classroom instruction, participants will be attending live demonstrations featuring fence building, chute-side calf working, cattle behavior, penning and Brush Busters.

“The goal of the short course each year is to provide the most cutting-edge information that is needed by beef cattle producers,” Cleere said. “We think we have information for everyone to take home and apply to their operations.”



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