US - Restocking the rangelands, as well as being key for agricultural output, could be vital in reducing the chance of wildfires, according to a Texas beef expert.
Dr Jason Cleere, extension beef specialist at Texas A and M, told TheCattleSite that growing fuel loads on the vast prairies will ideally be eaten down as more heifers return in the coming grazing seasons.
He said this also due to moisture shortage, still to be relieved in parts of Texas.
If stocking rates lift, it will buck a long term trend of beef herd decline, particularly marked since 2007, both in the US as a whole and Texas, Dr Cleere explained.
High feed costs from 2007 have limited profitability across beef sectors around the world which have then been added to by widespread drought in 2011 and 2012, agricultural economists have said.
“In Texas, our numbers have been low for several years in some areas,” said Dr Cleere. “Ranchers in these areas need to use forage resources wisely.”
As well as huge cattle operations, Dr Cleere said that most herds are one or two man concerns and wildlife has become a priority for many producers.
He said: “In Texas, around 90 per cent of the cattle are on ranches of less than 100 head.”
This means many producers are allowing wildlife to manage the plains, in some cases up to 100 per cent.
However, ‘optimistic’ was how Dr Cleere described cattlemen going forward, adding that many were looking to rebuild herds and are happy to rely on a strong beef market for a number of years.
This is why numbers are already rising, indicated by US Department of Agriculture heifer retention figures – up 1.7 per cent on 2013.
"Some cow/calf operations will see 2014 as the golden opportunity to get out with record-high cow prices," said Professor Hurt. "But the greater tendency will be for producers to hold on to the cows for the profitable opportunities that are expected over the next three or more years."
In the meanwhile, US beef production is expected to drop five per cent, which Professor Hurt said will likely support beef prices.
Furthermore, he added: "Finished cattle prices are expected to average about $135 per live hundredweight in 2014, exceeding the previous record high near $126 in 2013."
You can read more about rebuilding the US herd by clicking here.