Updated: Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013, 10:46 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013, 10:46 PM EST
ODON, IND. (WTHI) - Cattle farmers gather in southern Indiana to look for new ways to keep beef on the table.
The combination of high feed prices and drought last year led many cattle operations to shut down last year.
Many of those left in the business attended a conference in southern Indiana designed to get more stock back on grass and farmers more money.
A small herd of cattle forage in a former cornfield in the Daviess County Amish country.
Cattle numbers fell last year in Indiana.
Farmers gathered at the Simon J. Graber Center say the struggles they faced with higher costs because of rising feed prices were made even worse by the drought.
"The drought was rough," said cattle farmer Marlene James. "Water got to be a problem. We have a good source and that helped me a lot, but a lot of local farmers had to sell because there was no water."
About 300 farmers gathered at the conference looking for new ideas on how to get the most out of their operations.
Organizers say getting back to more grazing may be the solution.
"Especially when you've got commodity prices that are really hight, feed costs are really high," said USDA Agronomist for Indiana Victor Shelton, "but when you look at a system that's grass based that system is very economical and it's highly profitable."
Farmers say that despite the recent rains and snow there are some lingering effects from the drought.
Just the same there is some optimism for the coming year.
"It looks like its going to be a better year this year than last, just the way it started," said cattle farmer Larry James. "It was so dry in January and February last year. You have to have those moistures to get the water up."
And perhaps with these cattle farmers armed with information on more efficient ways to graze and grow their animals, affordable beef will be staying on the menu in the Wabash Valley.
Because of the high price of corn and soybeans many farmers have converted pastures and other marginal land into row crops.
Cattlemen say that means they have less land available for hay and grazing.
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