Herds Dwindling

The persistent drought in the western U.S. is forcing many ranchers to quit or move their cattle east to greener pastures.

Federal agricultural officials say the number of cattle in the nation has declined for the seventh consecutive year. That's due to a lack of forage and the weakened economy. The state-by-state inventory shows herds in western states declining while those in some eastern states are increasing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the numbers partly reflect the industry's natural cycle. Officials expect the numbers to shift again in a few years. Cattle and calf numbers nationwide totaled 96.1 million head as of January first.

That's down one percent from the previous year.