Nation's cattle heard smallest in decades
WICHITA, Kan. — A widespread drought that's forcing ranchers to sell off animals has helped shrink the nation's cattle herd to its smallest number in at least four decades.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that the number of cattle and calves in the United States totaled 97.8 million head as of July 1. That's 2 percent less than a year ago. Beef cattle numbers were down 3 percent at 30.5 million head counted, while dairy cow numbers remained unchanged at 9.2 million.
Overall, it's the smallest cattle inventory since the agency began a July count in 1973. NASS now estimates the size of the nation's herd each January and July.
Drought makes fruits, veggies flavorful
Chef Dan Jacobs expected his recent batch of jalapeño poppers to be tame because peppers grown at this time of the year are generally mild. But he quickly discovered that his spicy appetizer carried an unexpected fire.
"Wow, those things are no joke. They are hot," said Jacobs, the top chef at Roots Restaurant and Cellar in Milwaukee. "At this time of year, they shouldn't be this hot. But the warm weather, the no rain, that's going to cause that."
Temperatures above 100 degrees and droughtlike conditions have baked parts of the upper Midwest for weeks, taking a severe toll on corn and soybeans. But the heat brought an expected benefit for peppers and other crops: Their flavors became unusually concentrated, producing some of the most potent-tasting produce in years.
In peppers, that means the difference between a lightly tingling tongue and heavily watery eyes. The effect comes from alkaloids, the substance that binds to heat receptors on the tongue.
"Peppers really like hot weather," said Irwin Goldman, a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "When it's dry and hot outside, you'll get a higher concentration of alkaloids."
The same phenomenon also happens in onions, garlic and certain fruits, he said.