LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Agriculture officials plan to travel Texas in the coming months to help ranchers who want to rebuild their herds after heavy selloffs last year when drought parched grazing lands and sent hay prices skyrocketing.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service said Tuesday it will provide information on lending policies, animal health, balancing forage recovery with growing herds and issues involved in generational turnover.

One goal is to encourage young people to get into ranching after many cattle producers got out of the business because of the historic drought.

Ron Gill, a livestock specialist with the extension service in College Station, said in a news release that some discussion will center around obstacles to younger Texans getting into ranching. Those include a lack of startup money and experience.

"Developing partnerships with family members or others in the community will allow a new generation of ranchers to emerge during this recovery process," Gill said.

Texas is the nation's leader in beef production, and ranching and affiliated trade and service companies are the second largest economic driver in the state, worth billions of dollars, Gill said.

A January U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed Texas had 11.9 million head of cattle and calves, 11 percent fewer than a year before. The worst drought in Texas' history led to the largest one-year decline in the state's cow herd, with numbers dropping by 12 percent, or about 600,000.

If they don't rebound soon, the state could start to lose infrastructure, such as feedlots and meat packing plants, Gill said.

The educational programs begin in April. The first few will be held in Abilene, Alice, Athens, Graham, Midland and Yoakum.



Program schedule and online registration: (Enter keyword: beef)