By BETSY BLANEY
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - An economist says Texas' drought has caused ranchers to reduce cow numbers by an estimated 600,000 this year, making it the biggest decline in state history.
Beef economist David Anderson says it's unclear how many of the cows were moved to other states but that a large number were slaughtered. That will result in fewer calves and could contribute to increased prices.
Nationally, beef prices are expected to climb up to 5.5% next year.
The decline in cows comes amid increased exports of U.S. beefs to China and other countries.
The decline represents 12% of the roughly 5 million cattle Texas had on Jan.1. That's the biggest drop ever in Texas, though there was a larger percentage decline in the 1930s, when the overall herd was smaller.