NATIONAL REPORT — Mark Twain once said it was best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain. Unfortunately for those in Texas,
Oklahoma and New Mexico, the forecast has been steadily dry for far too long. Those states, along with Louisiana, are experiencing
an extended drought that has been likened to the Dust Bowl—or worse.
Crops are dying, and ranchers face diminished water supplies for their animals. Grazing land has all but disappeared, and
without rain, winter hay will be limited or non-existent. As a result, cattle producers are culling their herds and selling
off animals that otherwise would have been creating future production, including heifers and cows between the ages of 3 and
Texas is in its driest 12-month period in the state's history, and July was the hottest month there since 1895. To make matters
worse, says Travis Hall, professor at Texas A&M University, who also is the associate head for soil and crop sciences, climatic
models show a La Nina pattern, which pushes up the jet stream, giving states in the drought zone less precipitation and those
north more than normal.
"I'm fully expecting a full two-year drought here," he says. "I can't predict the severity, but all of the major drought events
are triggered by La Nina."
That means it could get a lot drier before it gets wetter—and better. As it stands, livestock auctions are crowded. Some sales
in Texas reported they couldn't handle the volume because of the rapid movement of animals off of ranches. Although Hall notes
ranchers "held off as long as they could," for most, waiting was no longer an option.