2 Million animals lost will take a little time to rebuild.
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After a dispiriting stretch of years, many Texas ranchers are optimistic as drought, expensive feed and other conditions that decimated their cattle herds start to loosen their grip. But rebuilding their herds will be neither cheap nor a short-term process, even in the nation’s top cattle-producing state.

Texas lost 15 percent of its cattle — or about 2 million animals — between January 2011 and January 2013, as ranchers sold them to out-of-state buyers or sent them to slaughter amid an unrelenting drought. That helped the size of the U.S. herd drop to 89.3 million head, the lowest level since the 1950s.

Many ranchers are now interested in starting to rebuild, eyeing improving beef markets. But they’re relying on several variables, the most important being reliable pastures, said Eldon White, executive vice president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.