Southwest cattlemen may have to delay restocking until late in 2007, despite recent rains that have provided needed moisture for drought-ravaged pastures.

“It will take years for pastures and ranges to recover,” says Jose Pena, Texas A&M professor and Extension economist-management, at Uvalde.

Pena said September rainfall in the Uvalde area “which probably reflects the relative rainfall condition for a large portion of Texas,” was less than 70 percent of the long term average and early October accumulation also came in below normal.

“Year to date accumulative rainfall is 31 percent of the long term average and the last 18 month period from April 2005 through October 10, 2006, was the driest on record,” Pena says.

He says rainfall for the past 18-months measured 62 percent below average. That shortage results in “forage availability too short to sustain minimum livestock stocking rates without serious effect on wildlife. Even if it rains now (as it did across much of the state October 14 and 15), there is not efficient time before the average first killing frost to produce enough over-winter forage. Under normal rainfall conditions, winter grasses provide only about 15 percent of typical annual production.”

He says ranchers may not see typical spring forage even with normal winter/spring rainfall since the soil profile is completely dry. He says forage may not be able to recover from the damage of drought stress over an extended time.

“Weather forecasters appear pessimistic about rain in the short term,” Pena says.

e-mail: rsmith@farmpress.com