AgriLife Extension experts said the USDA inventory estimated there were more than 1.2 million beef cattle alone within the 54 Texas counties on the emergency declaration list.
Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension specialist in emergency management, College Station, said many ranchers along the coast moved their animals to higher ground and several sale barns and fairgrounds were acting as holding stations for livestock.
Vestal said shelters for companion animals and livestock have been set up around the state to harbor and care for displaced pets and farm animals.
Pet and livestock owners can call 2-1-1 if they are seeking a small or large animal shelter or holding facility in an area that is not listed or contact the emergency management department in the area.
Here is a list of 50 shelters or holding facilities. Residents are encouraged to call the facility first to check availability and capacity because conditions change frequently.
Dr. Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist and associate department head for animal science at Texas A&M University, College Station, said he and other AgriLife Extension personnel will be cooperating with lead agencies as they prepare to enter affected areas to assess losses and short- and long-term needs for producers and their animals there.
“We will be following the lead of the Texas Animal Health Commission and alongside professional organizations like the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association to start assessing where and when we can go in to see what producers and landowners need now and will need over the next few months,” he said. “The flooding is making it difficult and we can’t get in the way while first responders are trying to get people out. Livestock are a secondary concern right now, but we do want producers and landowners to start thinking about what kind of help they will need long-term.”
Gill said responders expect needs for supplies, veterinary assistance and feed, but agencies will begin announcing those needs to the public as assessments are made.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We know that there are ample supplies of hay in Texas that were not affected, and we know cattle producers along the coast will need to be supplied because many of their grazing pastures could be underwater to a point that they may go dormant or die. We are working to meet the veterinary and nutritional needs for those producers over the short- and long-term, but we need to make assessments and that’s difficult right now because it’s still raining.”
Gill said waters appeared to be receding quicker after this storm due to relatively low runoff from tributaries to the north of the flooding. But those conditions could have changed as the storm continued to move across areas already flooded.
“We will probably go to the west side of the storm where the hurricane made landfall to begin our assessment and then work our way toward the remaining areas,” he said. “We also have AgriLife Extension agents in those areas who are helping make early assessments and coordinating the overall efforts to evacuate animals.”
Region hit by Harvey includes 1.2 million cows
The 54 Texas counties declared a disaster area due to Hurricane Harvey contain over 1.2 million beef cows, according to a USDA inventory report.
“That’s 27 percent of the state’s cow herd,” said Dr. David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock economist in College Station. “That’s a conservative estimate of beef cow numbers because 14 of those counties only have cattle inventory estimates.”
Anderson noted since it is late August, a lot of calves in the affected areas are either close or ready to be marketed. The disaster area also includes a large number of livestock auction markets and Sam Kane meat processing.
Anderson also commented on the recent USDA Cattle on Feed report.
National placements were reported up 2.7 percent. The average of the pre-report estimates was up about 6.1 percent from last year, Anderson noted.
“I think it is likely that placements in earlier months pulled cattle ahead, as has happened on the marketing side of the ledger in the first half of the year,” Anderson said. “Placements in July were lower than June, for the first time since 2007. It makes for an interesting placements chart with the counter-seasonal move.”
The number of cattle on feed was reported to be 104.3 percent of a year ago.
“Another interesting point is the increasing number of cattle on feed more than 120 days,” he said. “This will bear watching. We have placed more lighter weight cattle in recent months, but we certainly don’t need slower marketings.”
Higher placements in Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota indicated more cattle moving to Corn Belt feeders, but on the other side of that, Iowa placements were below a year ago, Anderson said.
Texas AgriLife writer Blair Fannin assisted with this report.
—From Texas A&M AgriLife news releases
PHOTO: AgriLife Extension and the Texas Animal Health Commission are collaborating to provide supplies for animals affected by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Paul Schattenberg, courtesy of Texas A&M AgriLife.