As the cows came home in Nebraska at the start of 2010, the line between the first muzzle and the last tail was the shortest it’s been since 1959.

The size of the state’s cow herd is already at its lowest level in more than 50 years, and recent predictions of another dip nationally in 2011 easily could extend into one of the nation’s most prominent beef states.

Don’t expect Gene Cone of the Burwell Livestock Auction at the southeast corner of the Sandhills to be surprised. As owner there for 28 years, Cone doesn’t miss much of what’s going on out in the pasture.

“Our cow numbers are probably the lowest they’ve ever been,” he says. And he’s looking ahead to what’s typically a big year-end liquidation between Christmas and New Year’s.

“You can’t go year after year with low profitability and expect to maintain cow numbers,” he says.

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