NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Consumers will be experiencing higher prices this holiday season. One reason is because of a shortage of cattle. Ranchers are experiencing a record low in their cattle numbers, and it’s all because of the drought.

“There has not been much heifer retention for the last several years due to the drought and that’s not only here in New Mexico but across the western states,” said New Mexico Cattle Growers Association President Loren Patterson.

That retention, in other words, means maintaining healthy female cattle is key to keeping a ranchers’ production steady. This means the cattle need to get enough to eat, but they need rain to ensure grass in the pastures.

Right now, the cost for a head of cattle is at a seven-year high. Cattle growers like Patterson say they have been scrambling to cut costs, which is especially in the face of today’s inflation.

“We’re seeing significant pressure on our input costs: the cost of fuel the cost of production the cost of fertilizer.”

Those numbers won’t improve overnight, Patterson explained it’s going to take five to ten years before the ranchers can bring their numbers back up and pass that along to the consumer.

“The cost of everything going into the farm and ranch is nearly doubled, and it’s going to trickle down to you guys as a market eventually.”

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Patterson said, until then, he will keep churning out as much beef as he can.

“We still have good grass here in New Mexico, so we’ll keep producing cattle in some form or shape or way.”

Meat prices are expected to increase by the start of the new year. It takes two years for cattle to get old enough to reproduce or be slaughtered for the market.