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Shrinking Herd: Analysts estimate continued downsizing in cattle

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Analysts estimate continued downsizing in cattle

Despite the cancellation of USDA’s semi-annual cattle report this summer, the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) conducted a cattle inventory survey to gauge the state of the national cattle herd.

In a report released Aug. 5, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist Derrell Peel and James Robb and Katelyn McCullock of LMIC interpreted the data that was obtained from surveying members of LMIC’s Technical Advisory Committee.

“Nationally and by region, the group was unanimous that the beef cowherd is down so far this year, with the U.S. assessments ranging from less than one percent to over two percent,” read their report. “The majority of the group indicated that the beef cowherd was likely down between one and two percent as of July 1.”

The report marked that modest heifer retention was seen in some areas. However, a majority of producers felt that no significant heifer retention was occurring or heifers earlier retained for breeding were diverted into feeder supplies. 

LMIC’s data showed that in 2013 all cattle and calves declined 1.8 percent from 2012 to 96,050. 

“All cattle and cows as of July 1 were likely down between one and two percent,” the report indicated. “Beef cows likely dropped just over two percent, resulting in reductions for seven consecutive years.”

Also, beef cow slaughter decreased by 3.1 percent for the first half of 2013 over 2012 numbers and is predicted to remain down for the rest of the year.

“The lack of USDA mid-year inventory estimates prevents the usual calculations of estimated feeder supplies outside feedlots,” Peel, Robb and McCullock wrote, also noting that data suggest feeder suppliers were down two percent. 

They continued, “This estimate factors in a smaller 2013 calf crop and reduced feeder cattle imports in 2013. Renewed heifer retention interest in the last half of this year could squeeze feeder supplies dramatically in 2014.”

LMIC remarked that the data should not be viewed as a replacement for official estimates provided by USDA as they do not reflect USDA survey and statistical methodologies. 

For a more complete look at the current state of the beef industry, look forward to next week’s Roundup. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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