Last Wednesday night, cattle expert and overall success story in the beef industry, Mark Gardiner, gave a talk at the Alley House restaurant just northwest of the square in Graham.

The main purpose of his talk was to give an insider's perspective on what it takes to keep up with the demands of the modern beef industry. But one issue that came up a couple of times during his talk was the problem of prolonged drought, specifically the effects that a prolonged drought can have on cattle.

Gardiner has seen his share of drought years, and when it comes to its impact on a cattleman's herd, he says that it's one of the biggest problems facing the industry today. Here in Young County, County Extension Agent Brad Morrison said that the local cattle industry has dropped significantly in the last two years due to herd liquidation.

“Until two years ago, we were at 20,000 to 25,000 head of mother cows, with an additional 40,000 head of stocker cattle brought into graze wheat pastures,” Morrison said. “The drought has reduced the cow herd to 10,000 to 12,000 head of mother cows and reduced stocker cattle numbers by 30 percent. The cattle industry represents $15 to 20 million of the county's total $30-35 million agricultural income.”

According to Morrison, even though there has been a recent, sharp decline in the local industry, things could still be much worse.

“What's keeping this thing bearable is that the price of calves has gone up,” he said. “Calf prices have near doubled in the past five years, thus producers are able to maintain a reasonable level of cash flow. With the current high level of calf prices, it would be a real positive for cattlemen if cow numbers were at the level of two years ago.”

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader