Drought devastating to local cattle ranchers

June 16, 2011 3:40:56 PM PDT
Ranchers in Fort Bend County say they are having to take extreme measures to deal with the extreme drought.

It's not just homeowners who are having to watch their grass turn brown because of the lack of rainfall. Local ranchers say they seeing the same thing as well. But for them, the grass is food for cattle and without it, their herds can suffer.

What's happening at the T&M Ranch outside of Richmond is happening to cattle ranchers all across Texas.

The cows have been fussing all morning. They are mooing, says the rancher, because he's thinning his herd by removing the calves from their mothers. It's an extreme decision Tim Wiethat made to save the rest of his herd. There's just not enough grass, and the pastures have dried up from the drought.

"We'd normally ship these calves in October and hopefully they'd weigh 650 to 700 pounds. Right now, they're weighing 400 pounds. We're getting them off the cattle to try and get the cattle to breed back. Basically, we're running out of grass," said Wiethat.

He's one of many ranchers in Ft. Bend Co. culling their herds. The usually lush pastures are brown and dusty, leaving smaller areas for forage and a smaller chance for profit this year.

Tom Dompier has been moving his cows from one pasture to another, going wherever there is grass.

"There is a sense of impending doom. In order for the cattle to survive, I'm going to have to sell the cattle. We don't get enough rain, get enough feed -- I don't want to sit here and watch them die," said Dompier.

He says he has plenty of well water pumped to troughs, but it is his hay barn that worries him. His winter supply is a resource Dompier says he's forced to use now.

"This is left over from last year, and I've got a few bale in here from this year, and that's all I've got right now," said Dompier. "If I start using it this summer, I'm not going to have any hay for the winter."

That is a dilemma, the USDA says, that is happening to cattle ranchers all across the state.

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