The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service released the much anticipated "Cattle" report on Feb 1.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service
released the much anticipated "Cattle" report on Feb 1.
The semiannual inventory report confirmed what many cattle market observers had
expected: The record-setting drought in the southern Plains in 2011 that
expanded into much of the country, including the Corn Belt in 2012, caused lower
All cattle and calves in the U.S. on Jan. 1 totaled 89.3 million head, which is
1.6 percent below the 90.8 million on Jan. 1, 2012. This was the lowest Jan. 1
inventory of all cattle and calves since the 88.1 million head in 1952.
However, it should be noted that beef production totaled 25.9 billion pounds in
2012, compared with just 9.3 billion in 1952. The near 26 billion pounds in 2012
is just less than the record 27 billion pounds produced in 2002, so the beef
industry produces much more beef with the same number of cattle that existed in
Beef cows in the U.S., at 29.3 million head, were down almost 3 percent from the
previous year. By far, Texas is the leading beef cow state, with more than 4.01
million cows on Jan. 1. Compare that to second-place Nebraska at 1.81 million
beef cows. The number of beef cows in Texas was down 12 percent on Jan. 1,
compared with 2012. This was down 9 percent from the previous year as well, for
a total two-year decline of more than a million head. Beef cows in Nebraska
declined 4 percent from last year. Beef cow numbers in third-place Missouri were
down 5 percent and fourth-place Oklahoma lost 1 percent. All of those states
were hard hit by drought conditions.
In contrast, northern states that were not as severely affected with drought saw
increasing beef cow numbers. Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho
and Washington combined for a 243,000-head increase in beef cows.
Interest in herd rebuilding was evident where moisture conditions allowed it.
Another indication of that interest was that heifers of more than 500 pounds
that were kept for beef-cow replacements in the U.S. were up 1.9 percent. Again,
several of those same northern states showed increases. Even Texas, where
drought conditions improved in some areas, recorded a 9 percent increase.
This was the second year in a row of increased beef cow replacements in the U.S.
Even though replacements were higher than on Jan. 1, 2011, and 2012, the 2013
numbers still were lower than any other year since 1990.
Contrast beef replacement heifers in the U.S. with North Dakota, where
historically high numbers were recorded the last three years. In fact, the
207,000 replacement heifers in North Dakota on Jan. 1 were the highest since
1974 and the fourth highest since records began in 1920.
The inventory of all cattle and calves in North Dakota on Jan. 1 was up almost 6
percent, beef cow numbers rose 7 percent and milk cows stayed the same. There
were more calves being backgrounded in the state than last year, led by an
increase of 2.5 percent in other (nonreplacement) heifers, but cattle on feed
for the slaughter market declined.
The 2012 U.S. calf crop was estimated at 34.3 million head, which was down 3
percent from 2011. However, the combined total of calves less than 500 pounds
and other steers and heifers at more than 500 pounds outside of feedlots was up
almost 1 percent. This was due to lower placements into feedlots the last
several months. Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in U.S. feedlots, at
13.4 million head, were down about 5.5 percent.
Weather will continue to be a wild card in cattle prices and numbers. Much of
the central U.S., including a number of important beef cattle-producing states,
is very dry. Seasonally high calf prices in the spring are dependent on the
potential for good grass conditions. Dry pastures in the U.S. will need
sufficient rain to prevent further cow liquidation.
Corn supplies are historically tight, so a good corn crop also is necessary to
support feeder cattle prices.