Lane DeHaven, the ranch manager of Cross Creek Cattle Company, attended the 2011 Beef Cattle Short Course last week at Texas A&M University. He had a great time and learned a lot. Lane really enjoyed listening to Dr. Temple Grandin speak. The audience must have enjoyed her speech as much as Lane since they gave her a standing ovation.
He also attended a session about the drought conditions in Texas. Climatologists have been studying weather patterns for decades and recording the temperatures, rainfall, and other meteorological information. I was astounded by their hypotheses for the future. Personally, I knew that we were in the midst of a three year drought. This year has been the worst. Earlier this week I read an article from The Texas Tribune by Chris Hooks called, “State Climatologist: Drought Officially Worst on Record.” It just states what is visible to the layman’s eye. It is bad.
The unfortunate news is that it doesn’t look like it is going to get any better any time soon. I kept looking for rain. Thought like, “Maybe we would have a tropical storm to break the drought. Maybe this fall would be cool and wet. Next year would be better. The drought could not continue, could it?” all circulated in my mind. However according to these climatologists, this drought cycle will continue for 15 more years.
Are you still standing up or did you pass out? The current drought cycle began in 1995. I know that we have had rain since 1995, but we have also had some of our driest years. Instead of this year being more wet since it is over the midway point, it has been the most severe in recorded history. So the question is, have we hit the bottom or are we still on the downward slope?
No one seems to know. Evelyn Browning-Garriss, the climatologist who spoke at the Short Course, writes The Browning Newsletter. You can download a sample copy at her website. In her newsletter, she explains the climate change and its impact on Texas and the Southwest. Colored diagrams, charts, and maps help you visualize the weather patterns. If you are interested in trying to understand the why, then this newsletter would be valuable.
However if you are like myself, all you want to know is when is the drought going to be memory. There is no answer except for a possible fifteen more years of dry conditions.
The forecast for this winter is unfortunate. Climatologists are expecting an extremely cold and ironically wet winter in Texas. Ms. Browning-Garriss was clear that the amount of rain would not come close to breaking the drought. It would be just enough to make everyone miserable.
So what does a rancher do with this information? Right now I do not have a definitive answer. I am honestly still processing the information. It is time to make hard decisions. The one thing I do know is that Cross Creek Cattle Company is committed to ranching. It is in our blood. We cannot deny it regardless of the weather forecast. However, we don’t know what the future holds. At least we have expert opinions on what might be in store for us so we can plan accordingly. I thought it was information worth sharing.