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U.S. Cattle Industry Faces Historic Inventory Decline

By Farms.com

The U.S. cattle industry finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with a historic challenge: the lowest cattle inventory in 73 years. According to Dr. Derrell Peel from Oklahoma State University, the numbers paint a sobering picture: 

  1. Inventory Decline: 

  • As of January 1, 2024, the All Cattle and Calves inventory stands at 87.15 million head, reflecting a 1.9 percent decrease from the previous year. 

  • This marks the fifth consecutive year of decline, resulting in a total reduction of 7.65 million head (or 8.1 percent) since the peak in 2019. 

  1. Beef Cow Herd: 

  • The beef cow herd inventory is currently 28.22 million head, down 2.5 percent year over year. 

  • This is the smallest beef cow herd since 1961. 

  • The top ten beef cow states, representing 57.3 percent of total beef cows, have significantly contributed to this decline. 

  1. Beef Replacement Heifers: 

  • On January 1, 2024, the inventory of beef replacement heifers is down 11.4 percent from 2022. 

  • This is the smallest number of replacement heifers since 1950. 

  1. Feeder Cattle Supply: 

  • The estimated supply of feeder cattle outside feedlots is at its lowest in the 53-year period since 1972, with 24.2 million head. 

  • This represents a 4.2 percent decrease from the previous year. 

  1. Impact on Beef Production: 

  • The overall decline is expected to result in a five percent reduction in total beef production. 

  • In 2024, beef production is estimated to reach approximately 25.5 billion pounds. 

  • Despite impressive productivity growth since 1951, the current beef production capacity faces constraints compared to market potential. 

  1. Rebuilding and Adaptation: 

  • The industry is now focused on rebuilding cattle numbers and enhancing beef production. 

  • Favorable conditions and strategic efforts are essential to meet the growing demand for high-quality beef. 

Extreme Temperatures Warning: Additionally, Dr. Derrell Peel warns that recent extreme temperatures across the country could negatively impact prices in the cattle industry. Vigilance and adaptive strategies will be crucial to navigate these challenges and secure the future of American beef.


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