Nebraska Cattlemen Meet to Talk 2013

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Leaders at the Nebraska Cattlemen's conference in Kearney say costs have gone up for producers during a year that hasn't been easy.

"The costs of the cattle [have gone up], which is understandable with the shortage of the cow/calf herd, and getting shorter as we speak," says Mike Drinnin, Chair of the Feedlot Council. "Also with this drought, it's only made that matter worse."

The USDA says the national cattle inventory is down, but slaughter numbers show that ranchers are producing more beef with less livestock.

And while Nebraska hasn't seen the rush to the sale barn like some drought-stricken neighboring states have, officials say it still could happen.

"If there's not some relief in sight, whether it be rain or snow, or moisture of some kind, I have a feeling that those sales next spring - we're going to start seeing a decrease in and we'll probably also start to see some herd liquidations," says Jaclyn Wilson-Demel, Vice Chair of the Cow/Calf Council.

But for now many producers are just trying to make it to the spring as both feedlots and cow/calf operations look for ways to replace what the drought has taken.

"The feedlots are using roughage and they need some hay or cornstalks or some form of roughage, and a cow/calf person has had to have more of that available for themselves as well just because of the shortage of grass," says Drinnin.

While reduced cattle numbers led to falling beef prices, consumers may yet see an increase. But officials say predicting 2013 isn't easy as other factors, like the fiscal cliff which could entangle the Farm Bill more and cause estate taxes to jump, may have an impact too.

"Come the end of the year there's a possibility that goes up to 55% and that's going to put a lot of farmers and ranchers out of business,' says Wilson-Demel.