Texas ranchers hit hard by drought eye rebuilding

BETSY BLANEY Associated Press Published:

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) â€" Texas, the nation's top cattle-producing state, lost 15 percent of its animals during a two-year drought as ranchers sold them to out-of-state buyers or sent them to slaughter. That dropped the size of the United States' overall herd to its lowest since the 1950s.

Moisture is returning to Texas and feed prices are dropping, and ranchers' interest in rebuilding their herds is rising. But it won't be a cheap or quick process.

Many ranchers sold their heifers â€" females that haven't had their first calf â€" and mother cows during the drought to save on feed cost. The price of pregnant heifers has risen by as much as $1,000 since the drought.

The forecast in much of the state shows equal chances for above, below or near normal precipitation.