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Cattle producers lose industry insight as USDA cancels July inventory report

An extension livestock economist says the UDSA’s decision to cancel the July Cattle Inventory Report is a huge loss for the industry. Oklahoma State University’s Derrell Peel says this is a problematic time to lose access to data. “Given where we are right now, we’re in a cyclical low in numbers and we’re really concerned right now about sort of the process of stopping liquidation, stabilizing the beef cow herd,” he says.  “And beginning that process of rebuilding.”

He tells Brownfield the inventory reports only happen twice a year.  “By losing the July report, we won’t have any estimate of heifer retention in terms of the replacement heifer estimates,” he says.  “We won’t have any estimate of the feeder supply in the middle of the year. And of course, the July report historically was the one where we get our first peak at what the current year calf crop is and we won’t have that either.”

He says the USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service decision only hurts the nation’s cattle producers, especially as the industry tries to get a handle on what’s happening with the cattle cycle. “This question of how producers’ expectations are forming depends on the information we can provide them about the prospects for the market in the next few months and years,” he says.

Peel says this isn’t the first time the USDA has dropped this particular report. “There’s been a couple of times in the past when USDA has skipped a year and then brought it back,” he says.  “Who knows whether they will consider that again in the future.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is urging the USDA to reverse its decision to end the report immediately.  NCBA vice president of government affairs Ethan Lane says it’s disingenuous for the agency that touts its commitment to transparency in livestock markets to cease publication of reports that provide needed information arbitrarily. 

The USDA’s NASS says the decision to cancel the Jully Cattle report and to discontinue all county estimates for crops and livestock beginning with the 2024 production year, as well as the cotton objective yield survey, was necessary given appropriated budget levels.

AUDIO: Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University

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