Cattle herd could expand, but it depends on weather

USDA’s semiannual cattle inventory report showed multi-decade lows in several of the major categories, but could point towards expansion of the U.S. herd.

Lane Broadbent, President of KIS Futures, tells Brownfield the potential for herd expansion is there thanks to a year to year increase in beef replacement heifers, “The thing that has everyone a little bit more excited about our herd being built a little bit more is our beef replacement heifers were 102% of last year. Short term, that makes this market be a little bit higher because you take cattle that would usually be slaughtered now are going to be kept for breeding purposes.”

However, Broadbent cautions any expansion hinges on weather and availability of forage, “The problem is do we have forage, do we have enough weather to really make that happen – for these guys to keep hold of these young cattle.”

Full look at the major categories:

According to USDA, all cattle and calves in the U.S. on January 1, 2013 totaled 89.300 million head, 2% below the total on January 1, 2012 and the lowest January 1 inventory of all cattle and calves since the 88.1 million head at the start of 1952.

All cows and heifers that have calved were pegged at 38.515 million head, down 2% on the year, and the lowest for the start of the year since the 36.8 million head in 1941. Beef cows made up the bulk of the total at 29.295 million year, a 2% year to year decline, while milk cows were basically unchanged at 9.220 million head.

All heifers weighing 500 pounds and over were 19.129 million head, 1% less than last year. Beef replacement heifers were reported at 5.361 million head, up 2% from a year ago, with 3.280 million of those expected to calve, also up 2%. Milk replacement heifers came out at 4.551 million head, down 2% on the year, with 2.928 million of those expected to calve, 4% below the January 1, 2012 total. Other heifers were pegged at 9.218 million head, 3% lower than a year ago.

Steers weighing 500 pounds and heavier were down slightly but statistically steady with last year at 15.813 million head, bulls 500 pounds and over were 2.056 million head, a 2% year to year decline, with calves weighing less than 500 pounds at 13.787 million head, also down 2% on the year.

2012’s U.S. calf crop was 34.279 million head, 3% below 2011, and the smallest since the 33.7 million born in 1949. Calves born during the first half of last year were down 3% at 25.0 million head.

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