The Texas cattlemen who blame Oprah Winfrey for costing them millions should thank her instead, according to a defense damage expert.

Even if Winfrey's April 16, 1996, talk show on mad cow disease caused a dip in the cattle market - a hypothetical argument that defendants don't believe - Bettina Whyte said Monday that plaintiffs actually profited because of it.In their defamation lawsuit against Winfrey, her production company and a vegetarian activist guest, cattlemen say the program cost them more than $11 million in lost sales.

But Whyte said cattle feeders didn't take into account the benefits of being able to purchase animals at discounted prices. Whyte said her study of five months' worth of cattle trading showed that one of the two groups of cattlemen, Cactus Growers, actually made $421,000 after the show.