”This decline was fueled by the drought, which left 2011 as the record holding driest year on record in Texas.”

Cattle prices are predicted to continue to be at all-time highs. Retail beef prices are expected to remain high as well, reflecting less supply, according to economists.

The USDA report revealed the national 2011 calf crop was estimated at 35.3 million head, down 1 percent from 2010. USDA reports it’s the smallest calf crop since the 34.9 million born during 1950.

Slaughter numbers continued to escalate in 2011 due to drought, Anderson said.

“The southwest region, which is  Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, slaughtered almost 200,000 more beef cows in 2011 than the year before,” he said.

“Nationwide, beef cow slaughter numbers were up 170,000 head. And also fewer heifers were held back to enter the cow herds due to the dry conditions. Each of these contributed to Texas’s smaller cow herd.”

Anderson said the decline in the nation’s cattle herd continued the trend to fewer cattle that was kicked off by the sharp increase in costs that began in late 2006.

“Skyrocketing feed costs beginning in the fall of 2006 began a wave of herd culling as livestock producers nationwide tried to adjust to unprofitable conditions,” Anderson said. 

“This herd liquidation was made even worse by the drought of 2011, the driest year on record in Texas.”

The largest destination states for Texas breeding cattle were New Mexico, Nebraska, Florida, South Dakota and Kansas.

“There may be no surprise in the states farther north, but Florida and New Mexico may be surprising to some,” Anderson said.

Top destinations for all Texas cattle out-shipments were Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

“Those states were also the top destinations for Texas cattle in 2010,” he said. “The value in this data is certainly that it shows the general trends in cattle movements and highlights the effect of the drought in moving cattle numbers.”