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Low Cattle Inventory Means High Beef Prices

The smallest cattle herd in decades means record beef prices may be on the way to the grocery store soon. Micheal Clements shares more on what this means for farmers and ranchers.

Clements: USDA’s biannual Cattle Inventory report shows the nation’s cattle herd at 87.2 million head, down roughly two percent from last year and the lowest herd size in 73 years. American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Bernt Nelson says it’s all because of recent droughts.

Nelson: The combination of higher input prices and drought drove farmers and ranchers to market more cattle, and not just more cattle but more female cattle that are responsible for replacing the beef herd. Now, we’re looking at a beef herd of about 28.2 million head. Amongst that we have a calf crop that is 33.6 million. Now this is down two percent, but it’s the smallest calf crop since 1948. That’s in 76 years.

Clements: Despite the low inventory numbers, Nelson says there is still a high level of cattle on feed.

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