The worst drought ever recorded in Texas has resulted in the largest single-year decline ever recorded in the Lone Star State cow herd.
According to Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the number of cows in Texas has dropped by about 600,000... a 12 percent decline from the roughly 5 million cows the state enjoyed at the beginning of the year,
That's believed to be the largest drop in the number of cows any state has ever seen, though Texas had a larger percentage decline from 1934 to 1935, when ranchers were reeling from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
While acknowledging some cows were moved to greener pastures, officials noted that about 200,000 more cattle were slaughtered this year in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas... up 20 percent from 2010.
That extra supply could help meet increased demand from China and other countries, but the loss of cows likely will mean fewer cattle in the years ahead. Ultimately, officials say consumers are going to pay more because there's simply going to be less beef available.
The Agriculture Department estimates beef prices will rise up to 5.5 percent in 2012, in part, because the number of cattle has declined. If realized, the increase would be on top of a 9 percent spike this year. And it remains to be seen whether higher beef prices will hamper U.S. sales or limit exports.