As ranchers in drought areas sell cows, others buy

By DAVID MERCER | September 19, 2011 | 3:20 AM EDT

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The drought that's forced ranchers in the Southwest to sell off cattle they can't feed is creating opportunity for others farther north.

Beef prices are rising because of strong export demand from Asia at the same time the U.S. supply is relatively low.

Farmers like 29-year-old Chad Bicker in Illinois think that makes this a good time to grow. As ranchers in drought areas sell, Bicker has been buying. He has 25 cows now and hopes to get to 35 by next year.

Experts say ranchers in states from Montana to Wisconsin are doing the same.

But, Iowa State University economist Shane Ellis says those small additions to herds probably aren't enough to offset the number of cattle being cut at big ranches in states like Texas.