FARGO, N.D. — U.S. cattle numbers are down 3 percent from 2012’s 97.8 million head, with only 95 million head, the lowest inventory for July since the series began in 1973, according to the USDA July 1 Cattle Report, released July 25.
"The report confirmed that cattle supplies are tight, but due to the two-year lag in reporting, it could not be determined if herd rebuilding in the U.S. has begun," said Tim Petry, livestock economist at North Dakota State University Extension Service, when analyzing the report. "There are other indications though that some herd rebuilding is taking place."
That "two-year lag in reporting" was due to the absence of the 2013 report, which wasn’t issued last year because of the federal government’s budget sequestration of about 20 individual USDA crop and livestock reports.
"The cattle report was anxiously awaited because, due to budget restrictions, the July report was not released last year," Petry said. "That means year-over-year comparisons are not possible and comparisons must be with July 2012."
Thus, comparisons to July 1, 2012, were offered in the USDA report, and "the industry largely didn’t issue pre-release estimates this year," said Darrell Mark, adjunct professor of agricultural economics at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, S.D., who also analyzed the report.
"Still, the report is important to provide information on the mid-year changes in the nation’s cattle herd," he said.
Mark said the USDA’s estimated 95 million head was 2.8 million head, or 2.9 percent, less than on July 1, 2012, and about 1.5 percent less than estimated for July 1, 2013, by the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) in Denver, Colo.
According to the July 1, 2014, report, all U.S. cows and heifers that have calved, at 39 million, were down 2 percent from July 1, 2012; beef cows, at 29.7 million, were down 3 percent from July 1, 2012; and milk cows, at 9.3 million, were up 1 percent from July 1, 2012.
The report added that other class estimates on July 1, 2014, and the changes from July 1, 2012, include: all heifers 500 pounds and over, 14.9 million, down 5 percent; beef replacement heifers, 4.1 million, down 2 percent; milk replacement heifers, 3.9 million, down 5 percent; and other heifers, 6.9 million, down 7 percent.
"This reduction of 2.4 percent is difficult to reconcile with the 1.7 percent increase in the number of beef heifers being retained on Jan. 1, 2014," Mark said. "Typically, this would imply that more retained heifers were culled between January and July, and sent to feed yards. However, the number of heifers on feed has been sharply lower throughout 2014."
Only Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota experienced an increase in cattle placements last month, said John Riley, assistant professor of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss.
"In Nebraska, where data are provided for placements by different weight groups, placements were steady or higher for all weight classes," he said. (No individual state totals were included in the report.)
Moreover, the report said U.S. steers weighing 500 pounds and over, 13.5 million, were down 4 percent; bulls weighing 500 pounds and over, 1.9 million, were unchanged; calves under 500 pounds, 25.7 million, were down 3 percent; and all cattle and calves on feed for slaughter, 11.6 million, were down 6 percent.
The 2014 calf crop is expected to be 33.6 million, down 1 percent from 2013 and down 2 percent from 2012, the report said. Calves born during the first half of the year are estimated at 24.3 million, down 2 percent from 2013 and down 3 percent from 2012.
The full July 1, 2014, Cattle Report is available at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/catl0714.pdf