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Missouri Family Farms are Dying

Cattle Sells for Record Prices

Because fewer children are wanting to follow in their parents' footsteps and take over the family farm, there's a cattle shortage. That is driving up the price of cattle at auction to record highs.

February 17, 2012|Joanna Small and Jason Crow | Reporter and Photographer

STRAFFORD, Mo. — The family farmer is a dying breed; that's according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  Every year the agency reports a decline in the number of farming operations across the country, and it's a problem in Missouri too.  Between 2009 and 2011 Missouri lost 1,500 farms and 200,000 acres of farmland.

  Riley Coble learned to carry milk buckets about the same time he learned to walk.  That's life on the family farm.  Riley, his mom, and his two brothers work there.  They're the wife and sons of Bob Coble's youngest son- the only son who wanted to take over the family business.

  "I have four boys and three of them are working in town," Bob explains.

  His dairy operation is nearly 150 years old.

  "My great grand-dad homesteaded this farm," back in 1870, and six generations later the legacy will live on.

  "I give these boys the farm," Bob tells us.
 
  He's one of the lucky ones.  The farming industry is a suffering one.

  "The people are going out because it's really been hard on them, it really has.  You can go to town and work on a job eight hours and go home.  You've got Saturday and Sunday to go fishing and do whatever you want to," says Bob.  "Here you work from 3 O'clock in the morning until whatever time in the night it takes you to get done."

  With more people quitting the business cattle numbers are shrinking but surprisingly the cattle shortage has actually had the opposite affect on the stockyards.  On an average Wwednesday, which is the busiest sale day of the week for the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center, 2,400 cattle will be sold.

  "The prices just keep going up every week.  We have record prices every week," explains Joe Gammon, one of the stockyard's owners.

  Gammon says the price climb is a result of farmers thinning their herds.

  "A year ago would have been probably a $1.30, two years ago could have been down under a dollar, so they've gone up 50% of their value in a year and a half," Gammon continues, explaining some cattle are going for $1.50 today.

  Back on the Coble farm Riley still has a back-up plan.

  "I want to become a doctor," the teenager tells us.

  Grandpa Bob can't blame him.  A supplementary income got him through the tough times too.

  "I've got 12 rent properties and my pension and everything is kind of what makes my farm go good.  That's why [Riley] wants to be a doctor," Bob concludes with a laugh.

  Gammon tells us the increase in cattle prices is off-set by the high cost of feed, fuel, and other materials, so the farmer's profit margin is still slim.

  Another reason why farmers are getting out-- the summer drought.  It was hard on Missouri and even worse on Texas.  The number of cows in that state dropped by 600,000.

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