A much anticipated government count shows the nation's cattle herd has shrunk to its smallest size in more than six decades amid a widespread drought that has forced ranchers to sell off their animals.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that the U.S. inventory of cattle and calves totaled 89.3 million animals as of Jan. 1. That is a down by 1.5 million cattle, or 2 percent, compared with a year ago at this time.
The agency says this is the lowest January cattle inventory since 1952. It does two counts per year, in January and July.
A livestock analyst says fewer cows will mean less beef and higher prices coming down the line for consumers.