Beef prices on the rise as farmers face smaller herds - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Beef prices on the rise as farmers face smaller herds

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Beef prices are going up across the country as farmers faces smaller herds.

The USDA says the price of beef is the highest it's been in nearly 30 years. In January, the average pound of beef cost $5.04.

Austin Arndt, president of the Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association, says producers nationwide are seeing the smallest beef cattle herds in 63 years, but the shortage is something the  industry can overcome in time.

The shortage is due to the drought of 2012 in our area, which drove up the price of feed crops, causing some farmers to sell off their herds because they couldn't afford to feed the animals. Now, producers in California face similar challenges, dealing with a historic drought. In addition, U.S. producers exported a record amount of beef in 2013.

It can take years for a producer to rebuild a herd, because each cow only gives birth to one calf a year and takes two years to mature to be able to breed.

Arndt tells 27 News livestock owners in Wisconsin were mostly able to avoid sending cattle to market early and are working to keep growing herds. Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for growing herd size, behind Washington and Nebraska and he expects the industry to continue growing.

"We are selling fat cattle for record high prices," says Arndt. "Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I think that remains to be seen. We still have to replace those cattle that we do sell and those are also high. Feed costs have moderated a bit, but costs for producers are still high as well."

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, nearly 15,000 producers own about 270,000 cattle in the state, processing 2.3 billion pounds of beef for market every year.

Feed prices have gone down. In 2012, farmers were reporting costs three to four times higher than the year before, but Arndt says feed prices are 40 percent lower than this same time last year.

Even still, beef prices in stores are increasing with demand. Arndt says consumers shouldn't be discouraged because the industry is constantly changing and becoming more efficient.


JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Beef prices are on the rise nationwide as farmers struggle with smaller herds.

The USDA says the price of beef is at the highest it's been in nearly 30 years. The average price for a pound reached $5.04 in January.

Experts say the problem is brought on by the recent drought in California, but also the drought that hit Wisconsin in 2012. Cattle owners are dealing with the smallest herd in 60 years.

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