Texas Drought Forcing Ranchers to Cull Herds

Image: Adam Sacasa /USA Today

Texas ranchers are having to ask the tough question of whether they will have to cull their herds as much of the state continues to experience ongoing drought. As the grass dries out and ranchers face rising costs, it’s becoming less viable to maintain large herds of cattle and sheep in Texas Hill Country.

As USA Today reported, “deepening drought is afflicting a large swath of Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley to central and east Texas, once again putting Texas ranchers’ livelihoods in peril. Statistics released this week by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 37% of the state in moderate drought conditions and about 11% of the state in severe drought. More than half of the state is abnormally dry, and parts of seven counties are experiencing extreme drought, according to the stats.”

The Science: As the Brownsville Herald explained, John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist said that the ongoing drought and higher temperatures in the state reflect the “larger scale global warming trend that’s being driven by mainly greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

The History: In 2011 Texas suffered its driest year on record and the cattle industry took a sizeable economic hit. While this current drought isn’t quite that bad, ranchers are still on high alert and are monitoring their fields and herds closely.

Ripple Effects: The cattle industry isn’t the only one that is jeopardized by drought. Since Texas is a big state that’s an important part of the global economy, climate threats like drought affect important crops like cotton by crippling their yield.

Why This Matters: Texas is only going to experience more droughts fueled by climate change. At the same time, the state’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions are canceling out gains in emissions reductions across the country. Additionally, Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature and Governor Greg Abbott continue failing to enact legislation to curb emissions and prepare the state for increasing climate threats. Climate politics are complicated in Texas, but the tangible effects of a warming planet are undeniable.

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