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      State Fair Celebrates Success of Nebraska Beef Industry

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      Beef is what's for dinner at the Nebraska State Fair. The fair celebrates cattlemen Thursday, and the industry that weathered the drought has plenty of optimism.

      The week of his 15th birthday has been a good one for Riley Eisenhauer of Farnam.

      "It's been very prosperous," he said.

      He's got seven calves to show at the state fair. And if they do well, he deserves a lot of the credit for raising them.

      He said, "I'm in charge of breeding and management and expenses."

      His mom Karen said, "It teaches them a lot about responsibility, hard work, and a good product for the consumer."

      But those consumers have noticed record high prices lately. That's a reflection of the drought that hit two years ago. Many cattle producers sold off when times got tough.

      State Ag Director Greg Ibach said, "The growth of our beef industry has been slower because people have wanted to take advantage of the good prices for feeder cattle, so they sold heifers, so we're starting to see a building of the herd."

      Nebraska weathered drought better than some states. In fact, the state has caught up with Texas in an important category. The two states are neck and neck when it comes to cattle in feedlots. And Nebraska's advantage is plenty of corn to help those cattle gain weight.

      Ibach said, "For Nebraska, between our corn industry and cattle industry and how they complement each other, it doesn't get much better for an economic driver than corn and cattle."

      And driving the economy through livestock is a big push for groups like AFAN. Director Willow Holoubek said, "Livestock employs many people and for every dollar of sales in livestock, it creates 62 cents of economic activity outside agricultural areas."

      So as young and old show cattle at the state fair, there's optimism.

      Many in Nebraska agriculture think the state can support even more livestock. And even though consumer prices are high, demand remains strong.

      Greg Ibach said, "You usually celebrate big events in life with a steak."

      Willow from AFAN said dairy numbers are increasing in the state, something they've been trying to encourage.

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