Cattle Numbers Down

Cattle numbers across the country are down in the wake of the worst drought in recent memory, leaving ranchers in a precarious situation.

For most of 2012, farmers across the country were in the grip of a devastating drought. From California to Ohio, farmers experienced extremely high temperatures coupled with record low precipitation. The one-two weather punch dried fields and withered crops.

In addition to the damage done to crops across the country, the drought hit ranchers and livestock farmers hard. With feed prices going up due to crop losses, and with farmers in arid Southwestern states losing access to water for their herds, farmers nationwide have been forced to sell off their animals.

As of January 1, 2013, the total number of US cattle and calves dropped to 89.3 million head, down 2 percent from last year’s figures. This is the lowest January 1 index of cattle in the US since 1941.

In addition to representing a blow to ranchers, the drop in cattle numbers could signify an increase in prices for consumers. The drop in cattle numbers could lead to a major rise in beef prices that could last years.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer