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Fewer cattle expected as cow herds shrink due to drought

In addition to high feed costs, cattle producers also face the effects of much higher fuel costs and all the other components of damaging inflation.

WESTERN PRODUCER — Drought and high feed and forage costs have pushed Canadian and American beef cow herds down to the smallest level in many years.

That should mean rising feeder and fed cattle prices over the next few years, but profitability for the cow-calf and feedlot producers will depend on how soon feed costs fall.

It also means beef consumers won’t see price relief at the meat counter for the foreseeable future.

Drought devastated feed production on the northern Plains last year. This year, the drought has shifted south, focusing on Texas and Oklahoma, the two most important cow-calf states in the United States.

In addition to high feed costs, cattle producers also face the effects of much higher fuel costs and all the other components of damaging inflation.

In Canada, the number of beef cows fell to 3.5 million as of Jan. 1 of this year. That was the smallest since the 3.48 million counted at the same point in 1990, following the drought years in the late 1980s.

In the U.S. on Jan. 1, the beef cow herd stood at 30.13 million, down 2.3 percent from the previous year.

Cow slaughter this year in the U.S. is up 14.6 percent over last year at the same point.

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