Tim Koopman is the first of four generations of cattlemen to take a second job, outside of his Sunol, CA, ranch. While both of his adult children own small beef operations, they too earn their livings from careers other than ranching.
Koopman hopes to continue running his 150-head herd even if the ranch can't completely sustain them financially.
But a number of American cattle families are throwing in their branding irons, either selling off their land or planting crops. While the price of beef is at record highs, the cost of doing business for some is impossible.
"Although revenues are up, expenses are increasing just as fast or even faster," says
Kevin Kester, president of the California Cattlemen's Association. The cost in California is especially high because land is pricey and scarce, he says.
The U.S. lost 9,000 beef operations from 2009 to 2010 (2011 numbers have not been released) and the inventory of cattle is the lowest since 1952, according to USDA.