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By Tim Hunt

Tough times for ranchers mean premium prices for beef

Uploaded: May 15, 2014

Sunol rancher Tim Koopman is a little recognized neighbor to the thousands of commuters who use Interstate 680 south of Pleasanton.
His family has run cattle on the hills east of I-680 before the Sunol exit since 1918. Over the decades, they have become used to the vagaries of weather in a business that relies on natural pasture land on their 2,600 acres to feed their cattle.
Needless to say, the last two years have been brutal on virtually all ranchers in California as the state suffered through its driest year on record. Tim, a former chair of the Alameda County Fair Board, is the current president of the California Cattlemen's Association and was quoted extensively in an article by Michael Kuhne that appeared online at He said that some ranchers have never fully recovered from the droughts of 1975-77 and 1987-89.
To cope with no forage and dwindling water, Tim has cut his herd in half to 200 cows—a tactic that ranchers across the state have used—selling breeding stock and selling calves much sooner and at lower weights than typical. It's been so dry that springs and a well that he thought was secure have been drying up.
For the consumer, it means much higher beef prices—if you bought steak for Mother's Day, you noticed. The California drought coupled with the multi-year drought in Texas that resulted in herds that were 20 percent smaller have sent prices soaring to record highs.
There's no quick relief because it will take years—assuming normal rains return—for pastures to recover and for ranchers to rebuild herds. The beef industry is at the lowest level of breeding cows in 63 years and it takes 2 ½ years for a calf to reach maturity for slaughter in typical conditions.

Congrats and a hearty well-done to the Pleasanton Partnerships in Education for its fundraising efforts over the last year. The organization presented the school district with a check for $551,000. The money will support reducing class-size in kindergarten and transitional kindergarten to 28-1 and provide a laptop to the 230 elementary classrooms. About $95k went to middle schools and $68k to high schools as well as $90k to one additional technology coach.

Driving in Dublin to visit my friend Steve McRee, I was struck by the unusual traffic controls on Grafton in the residential neighborhood north of Central Parkway in east Dublin.
I go through two intersections that are built with relatively tight roundabouts that require going fairly slow. Both roundabouts are accompanied by stop signs in every direction. Roundabouts and stop signs? Sort of like wearing both a belt and suspenders—one or the other, but not both.