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Economists says industry continues to watch for signs of cattle herd expansion

A livestock economist says he’s still not seeing widespread signs of expansion to the cattle herd.

University of Missouri’s Scott Brown says year-to-date beef cow slaughter is down 13 percent from 2023 levels. “We have to get ourselves down in that 15 to 20% range for an annual average before I get too carried away about what we’re doing on the cow side,” Brown says.

But, he tells Brownfield there are pockets of the country where expansion is likely happening. “Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana and Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas is down 16 1/2% year to date,” he says. “And when you look at Region 7, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, is down 16.8% just a couple of regions where I think weather has been much better.”

Tony Hancock with the Missouri Department of Agriculture says he’s continuing to watch the percentage of heifers that are being sold each week.  “This week, the split was about 60/40,” he says. “If we see that continue for two or three weeks, maybe a month, we might seriously be thinking that we’re finally seeing some retention and some rebuilding.”

He says a trend isn’t made in one week, but it is a data set the industry continues to monitor closely, because without the July Cattle Inventory report, January 2025 is the next time official breeding inventory numbers will be released.

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