Jul 19, 2013 12:05 AM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Local cattle industry faces challenges

The California Mid-State Fair kicked off Wednesday with the annual cattle drive.

The cattle industry has a large economic impact on the Central Coast, but it's changed a lot over the years. Soaring land prices affect those who want to get in to the industry, and the cost of feed for the cattle has a massive effect on those already operating within it. The lack of rain also has many ranchers losing money and even going out of business.

Rancher Dick Nock knows a thing or two about raising, selling and buying cattle.

"My family came to Cambria in 1858. We've been in the cattle business ever since," said Nock.

He says the challenges facing the $73 million a year industry are no bull.

"My calf crop this year, normally I sell calves weighing 700 pounds, on a normal year, well this year they were six," said Nock.

He says the combination of an extensive drought and high feed prices have caused many ranchers, like him, to sell cattle underweight.

Nock usually sells about 400 calves at a cost of about $1.30 a pound. That means, based on the weight of his cows this year, he'll make about $40,000 less than the year before.

"Your expenses go on. The gasoline and diesel hasn't come down. In fact, it keeps going up, so these are expenses that we have that are fixed and we can't get rid of them," said Nock.

However, unlike many newcomers in the cattle raising business, Nock owns his land.
He says based on the price of land now, it would be impossible to expect to pay off a large purchase of it just by raising and selling cattle, limiting those who can even enter the market.

It's not only ranchers feeling the pinch.

Consumers can also expect the continued climb of beef prices, while ranchers will continue to put more on the line to make ends meet.

"It's like Las Vegas. You roll the dice. If we don't get any rain, if we have a year this next year like this one, it's going to be a disaster in this county," said Nock.

The lack of rain is really the biggest culprit to the industry's troubles. In fact, because of the drought, much of the grasses the cows eat lack certain nutrients. That's actually causing many of them to not bare calves. So not only are they losing out when the sell them for slaughter, they're not regenerating their stock.

Thousands of cattle will be sold at this year's livestock auction on Saturday, July 27th. The auction kicks off at 8:00 am.



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